Informal Exchange With Reporters in Columbia, Missouri

March 26, 1987

Q. Mr. President, what is the point today? What are you trying to do by being out among the people again?

The President. Well, I can tell you that, but I can tell you also that the first thing I've been doing on the plane here is calling some Senators with regard to sustaining my veto on the highway bill, which is -- we're not against having a highway bill, we just don't like this one. And we're hoping that the Congress will come up with one that I can sign.

Q. Yes, but they've said that there's no time to get another one, Mr. President.

The President. There is if they want to.

Q. Jim Wright says that you're driving a Rolls Royce and the rest of America's in a pickup truck and you're going to be in a collision.

The President. You mean, he's driving the pickup?

Q. Well, he says that you're not going to be able to get this bill through, and that you're picking unnecessary fights with Congress, sir.

The President. We could if they wanted to. They could have the bill up next week, and I would sign the bill next week. But this one is filled with pork.

Q. Are you just trying to fight with Congress to take attention off of Iran and the contras?

The President. Not at all. I'm trying to get a highway bill that we can support.

Q. But -- --

The President. Now, you asked the question about what we're doing here. Columbia happens to -- I wasn't kidding here in my remarks to these young people -- Columbia happens to have had some great achievements in the improvement in education throughout the country. And one of the schools I'm visiting today will be a school that has received an award. And I will be talking about -- well, in the few years that we've had this, several students from one school -- the high school here, had been awarded. And that's a pretty good percentage when there are only 141 such awards given a year.

Q. Mr. President, are you prepared to talk about the AIDS problem at any point soon?

The President. What?

Q. The AIDS problem. Will you talk about that today in this setting?

The President. No, we won't be mentioning it here, but I can tell you that we're talking about it among ourselves there at the White House, and our plans and so forth are going forward.

Q. We're not going to hear about it then? When are we going to hear about it, sir?

Q. Is this the new -- --

The President. When we finish talking about it and are ready to act.

Q. Is this the new glasnost? We like it, being able to talk to you -- more openness.

Mr. Baker. He likes it, too.

The President. Yes.

Q. Well, what did Casey know about Iran?

Q. The Democrats -- --

The President. I only stayed away from you before because I didn't know anything to answer the questions that you all had, and I'm still waiting to find out some of it. I didn't know -- --

Q. Mr. President, the Democrats are going ahead and putting together a budget -- like you said you wanted them to -- and they're putting it together with tax increases. Are you going to look at the budget they propose to you?

The President. Well, I can tell you that that part of it -- in the negotiation that may take place -- that part's out to begin with.

Q. What about Casey? Were his fingerprints all over Iran?

Q. Thank you.

The President. I got to go.

Mr. Baker. Thank you.

Note: The exchange began at 11:13 a.m. at Columbia Regional Airport. Howard H. Baker, Jr., was Chief of Staff to the President.