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Ridge, Bloomberg Comment on Meeting With Bush

Aired March 19, 2003 - 11:01   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: They are coming out, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, you see him there, and Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City, meeting with the president about the cost of Homeland Security. Let's listen.
TOM RIDGE, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: ... on behalf of the president, we both want to welcome the mayor, as well as thank him for the time we've had the opportunity to spend together today. We spent about an hour together, half of which was spent in the Oval Office with President Bush.

First of all, we think it's very important to highlight the extraordinary effort that the city of New York has undertaken since 9/11 not only to recover from the horror and the destruction of that day, but also to build an infrastructure, to protect the unique way of life in this fabulous city.

There is no city in this country that does a better job of working across the board to prevent terrorism than the city of New York. I know I'm probably going to get a little difficulty with some of your mayor friends.

But, you know, we work very closely with the mayor and Commissioner Kelly (ph) and their emphasis on prevention. A lot of the public discussion and debate is often about first responders, and they are very, very important. But the number one mission for everyone engaged in providing homeland security is to prevent the attack from happening in the first place. And the mayor and Commissioner Kelly (ph) have nearly 40,000 men and women who go about that business every single day.

Operation Atlas, which is a well-coordinated effort citywide, working with state as well as federal officials, is a model for other communities to follow.

We had a good conversation about some of the unique needs, financial needs of the city of New York. We understand the primacy that the terrorists place on densely populated area. We know they go after economic targets. And the city of New York obviously remains a part of this national infrastructure that is a target. The mayor understands that.

At the same time, we think the mayor put the right blend of the preventative effort, as well as the encouragement of the community to go about the business of enjoying the great city of New York, going to the theaters and enjoying the museums and the restaurants. And so, again, we are grateful for the mayor's discussion today, his candor. The president will be sending a supplemental to Congress, looking for additional appropriations. There will be a homeland security piece to that supplemental. No figures, no final determinations have been made, but the mayor had some specific thoughts about how we need to address the needs of New York City and some of the other major communities in that supplemental.

All in all, I thought it was a very productive meeting. But it wasn't just about the mayor's identifying the needs and requesting dollars. The mayor also offered to the Department of Homeland Security and to the president the opportunity to work and learn from the great group of men and women he's assembled to prevent terrorist attacks in New York City, as well.

So, Mayor, it was a pleasure to spend time with you. And let me turn the microphone over to you.


It was a great meeting with Governor Ridge and with the president.

Our message from New York City is, first and foremost, that we think that we've taken the appropriate precautions to the extent anybody can. We have an enormous number of dedicated men and women. We've done a lot of training. We've done a lot of preparation. And if war breaks out, we will be there. And we have a bunch of first preventers, and that's our first job and that's what we're going to focus on.

I did express to the president our views that there's been a healthy discussion in this country about what the appropriate course of action is. The president has listened and he's made his decision. And I know all New Yorkers are behind the president and our prayers are with him and with our troops overseas.

We do have, in New York, some special needs in the sense that we represent to the whole world a lot of things that terrorists find very threatening. And we obviously can use every bit of help that we can get from Washington and also from Governor Pataki in Albany, who've been very helpful, in terms of providing resources.

But the other thing we wanted to say was that when we were attacked on 9/11 in that terrible event, the rest of the country was there for New York City. And one of the things I said to the governor and to the president was, New York City would be happy to share its knowledge and its ability to train with the rest of the country. It's only a small ways to say thank you, but it is a concrete thing that we can do.

So we look forward to a peaceful world.

The president, I think, understands that in the end he has an awesome responsibility. And we are behind him. And we will do our part on the home front. There is a two-front war here. One is on the streets of our cities and one is overseas. And I'm responsible to help with one of them. And we're going to do that.

I gave a eulogy yesterday for one of our brave police officers who was murdered. And I pointed out that he has had just as dangerous a job as our troops overseas. Our prayers have to be with everybody that goes to defend the people of this country.

And I want to also thank Governor Ridge. He's got a very difficult job. Pulling together disparate groups, coordinating our resources to meet a changing world is perhaps the hardest job in government. And my hat's off to him.

I'll be happy to take a question or two.

QUESTION: Mayor, what specifically did you ask for in terms of dollar amounts from that supplemental...

BLOOMBERG: We didn't talk about specifics. But our great interest is that the monies that are distributed and made available are based on where the risks are and on need. And New York City has 3 percent of the country's population. If you do it based on population, because of some minimum requirements for every state, we even get less than that.

But that does not reflect what we think are the realities. When you give out monies for military items, you do it based on need. And we think that homeland security should get its money from Congress and be able to distribute it based on what the governor perceives the risk would be.

Clearly, New York City was ground zero before, and because it is such a diverse city where people can express their views, where all of the world's religions are practiced, it's the target. And, fortunately, we've got a group of people who know what they should do when they see something strange: call 911 and turn it over to the professionals and go about their business. And that's one of my messages.

I want them out going to the restaurants, riding the subways, going to the theater. That's what makes New York great.

QUESTION: Did the president convince you war is necessary despite the failure of diplomacy? And what kind of course of action did you express to him?

BLOOMBERG: The president's made his decision. He said clearly the other night, Saddam Hussein had 48 hours to leave or we were going to take military action. And I think at this point, the debate's over.

And that's what democracy's all about, everybody gets a chance to express their views. We've elected the president to listen, and then to make a decision. He has made that decision. He is a forceful, strong leader. He's not going to be cowed or dissuaded. He's going to go out there and do what we all pray is right.

And I happen to have great hopes, like everybody else does, that any military action will be quick and decisive and successful.

And my thoughts are with the young men and women. I saw some of them when I went to Kabul six months ago. Dangerous thing, dangerous job. The rest of us can go home tonight and sleep safely because they are overseas.

QUESTION: Where does the money come from if the government does not give you (OFF-MIKE)?

BLOOMBERG: Well, New York City, like lots of other cities, has a budget crisis. But first and foremost, we are going to make sure that the people of New York City are as safe as we can possibly make them. And we will worry about the budget afterwards.

Having said that, obviously we, like everybody else, need some help. We happen to have a slow economy at the moment, which hurts tax revenues. And the expense of providing security with more technology and more training keeps going up.

But the people of New York City should rest assured, we will not skimp on anything for economic reasons. There are obviously limits. You can't put a police officer in front of every building. You can't put a firehouse on every street. But we think we have the appropriate level of training and equipment.

We have a great fire department, we have a great police department, both of whom have shown their mettle every time they have been called on. We have a Department of Public Health and Public Hospitals and the Office of Emergency Management. And we have worked very hard in coordination between all of these agencies and coordination through Tom Ridge to Washington.

We've gotten a lot of help, intelligence help and technical advice out of Washington. And I think it's very healthy having Tom responsible so there's one place to go. And he can make things happen. That's what the president was trying to do when he appointed him and pulled everything together. That is useful.

Governor Pataki has just activated part of the National Guard. The governor has -- I talk to him every day, and he has certainly been willing to make available to us any of the state resources, some of which we take him up on, and some are there in case we do need them.

But I think that what we have to do as we go forward here and as the events unfold on the world stage, people have got to go about their business. Call 911 if you see something strange, say a prayer for our troops, and just be thankful that the great men and women of the police department, the fire department, Office of Emergency Management are out there.

Thank you very much.

COSTELLO: You've been listening to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, along with the Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. They just met with the president in the White House, in the Oval Office, and talked about the cost of providing homeland security to individual cities across this nation.

Want to stay in live in Washington, D.C. and go to our senior White House correspondent, John King, because, of course, the president has other things on his mind today -- good morning, John.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Carol. This conversation, of course, the president and his Homeland Security chief, as well as the mayor, precipitated by the fact that the CIA and other agencies believe there is an increased likelihood of terrorist attacks here in the United States as the president prepares to send U.S. troops into combat overseas. That deadline for Saddam Hussein, of course, expires at 8:00 tonight Washington time. Now just a matter of hours away. And if there was any doubt that Mr. Bush is poised to launch military strikes in Iraq, the White House removing it by sending this letter to Congress.

Remember last October, Congress passed a resolution authorizing the president to use military force. In that resolution, it said the president must first determine that diplomacy has failed. Well, in this brief letter to Congress, the president does just that.

He says -- quote -- "I determined that reliance by the United States on further diplomatic and other peaceful means alone will neither adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq, nor likely lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq."

So the president putting Congress on notice, as he put the American people on notice the other night that military action could be imminent. We are told in discussions with his national security team today that Mr. Bush was told the troops are ready and awaiting his orders. We are told they could come as early as tonight. Some officials, though, think perhaps the president will wait a little bit past the deadline, acting on the advice of military commanders. We are told when they tell him they believe it is the optimum moment the go, the president will give the go ahead orders -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Well, we can understand. So the president certainly is busy today. He's just not sitting back and waiting. He was also on the phone this morning, dealing with the humanitarian aspect of this.

KING: I'm sorry, Carol. I'm unaware of what you are talking about.

COSTELLO: Oh, I thought he was gathering support from other nations for money to help for humanitarian efforts after this war is over, if there is a war.

KING: Mr. Bush has a sweeping diplomatic outreach effort planned. Some calls yesterday, some calls today. Most of his focus now is on the coming military confrontation, including a conversation with the British Prime Minister Tony Blair today. But, yes, the administration is reaching out to other countries around the world. Some from contacts here at the White House, much of it being coordinated at the State Department, trying to get other nations, Japan and South Korea, are two that have come forward quickly to say they would like to help, first in the humanitarian -- there's expected to be a refugee crisis, but also then in the post-war reconstruction inside Iraq.

COSTELLO: All right. John King reporting live from Washington, D.C.


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