Any questions for the President?

William F. Buckley
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Posted: Jun 19, 2001 12:00 AM
Q: Mr. President, welcome to Europe, to Spain. There are a few differences in outlook on policy between us --older societies -- and you, of the new world ...

A: Yes. Go ahead.

Q: ... for instance on the subject of capital punishment. Your Timothy McVeigh was just executed.

A: Yes. According to federal law, his crime was punishable by execution.

Q: You say "federal law." But there hadn't been an execution under the federal code for almost 40 years.

A: Ours is a deliberate process. Perhaps you will think it too deliberate. There are Americans who would sympathize with you. It took what, 10 years, to bring to trial the two men accused of the Lockerbie bombings? And then, what -- one year to try them? The execution of Mr. McVeigh was accelerated by his own action. He asked to move his sentence forward, rather than go through the legal motions (they have averaged about 10 years) available to him.

Q: Here in Europe, we consider executions themselves as crimes against humanity.

A: In America, we don't. We think of them, where warranted, as affirmations of the value we place on human life. Public opinion in America favors capital punishment. Public opinion in certain countries in Europe, notably Great Britain, also continues to favor capital punishment. But these apparent anomalies are for you Europeans to dwell upon -- yes?

Q: Sir, we in the European community are concerned over the deteriorating planetary picture, notably the greenhouse effect. The United States has 5 percent of the world's population and emits 25 percent of the greenhouse gases.

A: Yes. But the United States produces 25 percent of the world's goods, so that our consumption is related to our productivity. But something needs to be done, you are right.

Q: That was the reason for the Kyoto gathering. But the protocol arrived at there you have rejected --

A: The Kyoto Protocol was rejected by the Senate of the United States by a vote of 95-to-0. There hasn't been that kind of unanimity in the Senate since called upon to justify entering world wars in, uh, 1918 and 1941 --

Q: You meant 1917?

A: Yes, yes. The war to help out in France.

Q: We are becoming, sir, a united Europe, and we don't anticipate any further such needs as you mention, for U.S. military intervention.

A: Yes, that is a very welcome development. Muy noticias bienvenidas, as we sometimes say around the house back in Texas. And we certainly know European pain. We had a great civil war of our own. That was about 150 years ago, way back before your -- shouldn't we call them civil wars? Since we think of Europe as an entity now? I agree. De acuerdo, Senor.

Q: Mr. President, on the matter of your anti-missile plans, we are very much concerned, most of us here in Europe, about the implications of it. The renewal of arms races --

A: We are aware of your concern, and very much regret it. The way we figure it is, we need to discourage those forces that want to gain a nuclear potential, the only purpose of which of course would be to threaten peaceful nations. Our aim -- it was first enunciated by President Reagan -- is to develop a technology that seeks to adapt to developing aggressive technology by such nations. We just don't see any way in which that effort would damage our good friends in Europe.

Q: But, sir, the anti-ballistic-missile treaty was the solid plank of missile deterrence from 1972 --

A: Actually, it did not deter, has not deterred. The Soviet Union developed most of its missile power during the '70s and '80s, and ceased doing so only after the Cold War was won. As for the treaty's effect on anti-proliferation, there are no signs of it. India and Pakistan have detonated bombs, and we know that Iran and Iraq proceed without any reference to any anti-proliferation tests, covenants, restraints --

Q: But a treaty is a treaty.

A: The 1972 treaty included the right to rescind upon serving six months' notice. You have to understand, Senor -- I didn't catch your name? Tiasaferro? Yastafierro? -- that the United States has to make such provisions as we think prudent to protect ourselves and our way of life --

Q: There are a lot of Europeans who have deep reservations about the American way of life.

A: I understand, I understand. We have lots of debates about these matters -- I don't know whether you listened in on my disagreements with Vice President Gore? -- but there is the other side too that likes American productivity. California has voted against my party -- it is a very Democratic state, Senor Estaferro -- but there aren't many Californians who were put off last week when it was revealed that California's production now exceeds that of France. We have had wonderful historical relations with France, dating back to Lafaferro -- Lafayette. And we want continued fine relations with Spain, the mother of the Western Hemisphere, I mean, the co-mother, you-all and England.

Q: Sir --

A: Sorry, time's up, I'm told. We don't want to let off any -- ho ho -- unnecessary gas. Cosas malas, as we say in home ports.