Excerpts from President Bush's news conference

December 21, 2004

On Iraq

"Car bombs that destroy young children or car bombs that indiscriminately bomb in religious sites are effective propaganda tools. But we must meet the objective, which is to help the Iraqis defend themselves, and at the same time, have a political process to go forward."On immigration

"I was the governor of Texas right there on the front lines of border politics. I know what it means to have mothers and fathers come to my state and across the border of my state to work. Family values do not stop at the Rio Grande River, is what I used to tell the people of my state. People are coming to put food on the table; they're doing jobs Americans will not do."

On Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld

"The secretary of defense is a complex job. It's complex in times of peace, and it's complex even more so in times of war. And the secretary has managed this department during two major battles in the war on terror - Afghanistan and Iraq. And at the same time, he's working to transform our military so it functions better, it's lighter, it's ready to strike on a moment's notice."

On Social Security

"The Social Security system was designed, obviously, in an era that is long gone. And it's worked in many ways. It's now in a precarious position. And the question is whether or not our society has got the will necessary to adjust from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan. And I believe the will will be there."

On the budget

"My budget will maintain strict discipline in the spending of tax dollars and keep our commitment to cutting the deficit in half over five years."

On Russian President Vladimir Putin

"He probably has disagreements over some of the decisions I've made. Clearly, one such decision was in Iraq. But this is a vital and important relationship. And it's a relationship where it's complicated - it's complex, rather than complicated. It's complex because we have joint efforts when it comes to sharing intelligence to fight terrorism. We've got work to do to secure nuclear materials. I look forward to working with the Russians to continue to expand cooperation."

On Iran

"And it's much different between the situation in Iraq and Iran because of this: Diplomacy had failed for 13 years in Iraq. As you might remember, and I'm sure you do, all the U.N. resolutions that were passed out of the United Nations, totally ignored by Saddam Hussein. And so diplomacy must be the first choice, and always the first choice of an administration trying to solve an issue of, in this case, nuclear armament. And we'll continue to press on diplomacy."

On former Homeland Security secretary nominee Bernard Kerik and the process of vetting Cabinet nominees

"I think he would have done a fine job as the secretary of Homeland Security, and I appreciate his service to our country. We've vetted a lot of people in this administration. We vetted people in the first, we're vetting people in the second term, and I've got great confidence in our vetting process. And so the lessons learned is, continue to vet and ask good questions and get these candidates, the prospective nominees, to understand what we expect a candidate will face during a background check."

On repeated questions from reporters about Social Security

"I will repeat, don't bother to ask me. Or you can ask me. I shouldn't - I can't tell you what to ask. It's not the holiday spirit."

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