Public Papers

Exchange With Reporters in Kennebunkport, Maine


The President. Good morning, everybody, bright and early.

Hostage Situation

Q. Any hopeful signs on the hostage situation?

The President. Nothing overnight. Just talked to the Sit Room, and I think Perez de Cuellar just left Geneva. But we haven't gotten a last-minute report: coming. So, there's nothing, no new developments overnight at all.

President's Health

Q. What happened to your arm, sir?

The President. Donated a little blood to the cause.

Q. Where? Here in town?

The President. No, no. The nurse took it out.

Q. On purpose? [Laughter]

The President. No, they check me about once a month on that blood withdrawal.

Q. What are you doing instead of running these days?

The President. I ran yesterday, 2 miles.

Q. Did you?

The President. Yes.

Q. Where?

The President. On the place. Yes.

Q. And you're running how often?

The President. About once a week. And then I'm playing tennis out there and playing golf here, which isn't a lot of exercise, except for the amount of swings I'm taking.

Q. Are you using a Stairmaster or anything like that?

The President. No, I've run -- I use one at home, but I ran 20 minutes yesterday which is 2 miles.

Q. You're not cutting back on that on doctors' orders, are you?

The President. No, no. I'm cutting back on it because I'm playing a lot of tennis and a lot of other stuff, getting up early around here and -- cast for 45 minutes yesterday steadily which was fantastic fishing. So, it's a mixed program.

Q. What was the blood test for?

The President. They just take it out of here and test it every month or so.

Q. Just routine?

The President. Yes, just to see the balance on the thyroid. I'm still taking thyroid stuff, and will be, I guess, for the rest of my life.

Hostage Negotiations

Q. Are you pleased with Israel's response and the way they're proceeding?

The President. It sounds like flexibility on all sides. But again, Rita [Rita Beamish, Associated Press], it's pure speculation this morning because there isn't any news overnight that we know of.

Q. Do you think we're settling into -- Perez de Cuellar seems to indicate maybe a little bit of, I don't know, a holding pattern or just maybe having to settle in for -- --

The President. Well, when I talked to him a couple of days ago he expressed cautious optimism, and I don't know that there's any reason to change that assessment.

Q. You said that there would now be, this would now be a time for secret negotiations. Who is taking part in these secret negotiations.

The President. Well, if it's secret, we wouldn't know, would we?

Q. But I thought you might know.

The President. If it's a big secret we wouldn't. Well, I might. But I think the ball is largely in the constructive hands of Perez de Cuellar and his team now which is good because the U.N., having performed very well during the Desert Storm period and prior to that I think has a certain new respect level. It certainly -- the Secretary-General seems to have the confidence of all parties. So, that's the major chance now for more release.

Q. Have you talked to him?

Q. Are you concerned at all, sir, that with Perez de Cuellar negotiating with these hostage-takers that it might have the effect of doing what the United States has always not wanted to do, and that is to make hostages seem more valuable because it gets the attention of the world community?

The President. I don't think if it's being handled this way, there's any chance of that at all. Our position is well-known, and I think others have had different policies on that. You've seen in the past where Israel, anxious to account for every single one of its fighting people, fighting men have been taken prisoner from time to time, have been willing to engage in prisoner swaps.

Q. You have no problem with that?

The President. None at all. I don't see that there's anything that would diminish our policy at all, in all of this. In fact, I'm just hopeful that it will result in the release of our people.

Q. Have you talked to him since -- --

The President. No, not since I talked to him a couple of days ago.

Golf Game

Q. Are you going to use Big Bertha?

The President. I'm going to unleash it out here, yes. Keep your head down there and left arm straight and bring it on through, and the results are startling. By that, I mean wet.

Q. Wet?

The President. It's not very wet, not the way I use it.

Q. Where's Mrs. Bush?

The President. She's recovering from her round of yesterday. That's subject to present interpretation by the Secretary-General, which means she stunk and doesn't want to play today. [Laughter] No, rephrase that. She didn't have her finest outing yesterday. [Laughter]

Note: The exchange began at 6:14 a.m. on the course at the Cape Arundel Golf Club in Kennebunkport, ME. In the exchange, the President referred to United Nations Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar de la Guerra, and a reporter referred to Big Bertha, one of the President's golf clubs. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this exchange.