Informal Exchange With Reporters Prior to a Meeting With Republican Congressional Leaders

 

October 4, 1988

 

Hostages in Lebanon

 

Q. Mr. President, why do you think Dr. Singh was released and by whom? Whose intervention? And did we have any background, behind-the-scenes role?

 

The President. No. And as I say, we've done no negotiating on that at all, and I'm not going to hazard any guesses as to why they turned him loose, not as long as we've still got hostages there.

 

Q. Are you pleased that he's out, sir?

 

The President. Of course.

 

Q. Do you have any hopes that we'll have additional hostages within the next few days or so? Any indications?

 

The President. I haven't seen any indication of that.

 

Q. Mr. President, what should the next step of the United States Government be to build on whatever signal might have been inherent in the release of Mr. Singh?

 

The President. I can just tell you that this has been -- it's been a great problem for us and something that's very much in our minds, and we're not engaged in any negotiations with the captors.

 

Q. But surely, you must know who was intervening.

 

The President. I just can't talk any further about it.

 

Q. Are they trying to manipulate the American election, do you think sir?

 

The President. What?

 

Q. Are they trying to manipulate the American Presidential election, sir?

 

The President. Do I think --  --

 

Q. Do you believe that the terrorists are trying to manipulate the American Presidential election in some way through the hostages?

 

The President. Well, if they are, I hope they're on the right side. [Laughter]

 

Q. What's the right side? [Laughter]

 

President's Leadership

 

Representative Michel. Mr. President, forgive me for my brashness, but this would appear to be maybe the last leadership meeting that we're going to have during your Presidency here, at least to discuss legislative agenda. And as one of those who have been here now for 8 years, for the entire period of time, around this table, I just have to tell you what a rewarding experience it's been for those of us who have been privileged to sit around this table, have you give us our charge each week or every other week or so, and then go out there and do the best we can.

 

Now, Bob [Dole] can speak from a little bit different perspective when they were the majority, but we in the House have always been in the minority. Let me tell you, Mr. President, the only leverage we have had in the House of Representatives in the last 8 years has been your leadership and what you've been able to do by supporting that valiant minority that we have in the House of Representatives.

 

I just want to express my personal appreciation and thanks to you for what you've done by way of giving us the inspiration and esprit de corps to do the best we could, even in the minority role. And of course, Bob can speak for himself from the Senate vantage point. But that's our view from the House. We thank you, Mr. President, for what you've done.

 

The President. Thank you very much.

 

Senator Dole. And I just say, Mr. President, America's a better place because you've been here. And we're all proud to have been part of it, and we'd go the extra mile for you anytime, just as you've done for our country.

 

The President. I might consider adjourning the meeting. [Laughter] Well, no, I've got to start the meeting. [Laughter] And I am most grateful for what I've heard. And I've been very proud of the relationship that we have all had for these several years. And now that the 13 annual appropriations bills have been enacted -- and I commend all of you for that achievement -- I think it's time for Congress to go home. [Laughter]

 

But before you do, I want to urge the Senate to pass a responsible drug bill. The House passed a good bill 12 days ago to strengthen our fight against drugs, but it's been sitting on the Senate calendar for days. And I urge the Senate to pass the drug bill so that it can be quickly conferenced and enacted, and then I'll wish the 100th Congress a very hardy adieu.

 

Senator Thurmond. And get some judges approved, too! [Laughter]

 

Note: The President spoke at 9:35 a.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. Mithileshwar Singh was kidnaped by the Islamic Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine on January 24, 1987, at the Beirut University College, where he was chairman of the business administration department. Mr. Singh was released on October 3, 1988.