White House (AP) Don't look for President Bush to be sitting down with the new president of Cuba anytime soon. Speaking today at a White House news conference the President addressed several topics, including the economy, and urged Congress to pass legislation regarding housing reform, funding of troops, aids relief in Africa, and a wiretapping law to help anti-terrorism intelligence.
President Bush wants lawmakers to pass his version of a law making it easier for the government to conduct domestic eavesdropping on suspected terrorists' phone calls and e-mails.
The president pressed Congress to give telecommunications companies legal immunity for helping the government eavesdrop after the September 11th terrorist attacks.
The President says allowing the lawsuits to proceed “would be unfair” because the companies were told their assistance was “legal and vital to national security.”
The Senate has passed a bill that would provide retroactive legal protection for telecommunications companies, but that protection is not in a version approved by the House.
The President also says the lawsuits could also disclose how the government conducts surveillance.
During his news conference, the President defended his stance of not talking directly with leaders of adversaries such as Iran and Cuba without setting preconditions. In doing so, he offered some of his strongest criticism yet of Raul Castro, who assumed Cuba’s presidency on Sunday after his ailing brother Fidel stepped aside.
President Bush told reporters that “sitting down at the table, having your picture taken with a tyrant such as Raul Castro, for example, lends the status of the office and the status of our country to him.” The President said that Raul Castro represents “nothing more than an extension of what his brother did, which is ruin an island.”
President Bush says there's “no question the economy has slowed down.” but he says he doesn't think the country is headed for a recession. The President said the economic stimulus checks will start being mailed to taxpayers in the second week of May, and he refused to label the current state of the economy a “recession,” saying his administrationhas acted “robustly” to promote economic growth.