Bush supports Hastert call for investigation and expresses confidence in speaker

Tuesday, October 3rd 2006, 5:17 am
By: News On 6

STOCKTON, Calif. (AP) _ President Bush said Tuesday he was ``shocked and dismayed'' at disgraced lawmaker Mark Foley's behavior and supports House Speaker Dennis Hastert's call for a full investigation.

``This investigation should be thorough and any violation of the law should be prosecuted,'' Bush said while campaigning for Republican lawmakers in California.

Some, including a Washington newspaper, have called for Hastert to resign, but Bush expressed confidence in the speaker's ability to resolve the matter, calling him a ``father, teacher, coach.''

``I know Denny Hastert. I meet with him a lot. He is a father, teacher, coach who cares about the children of this country,'' Bush said. ``I know that he wants all the facts to come out.''

Bush took no questions. And as he stepped toward his motorcade, the president ignored a shouted question directly asking whether Hastert should resign.

The president spoke after Hastert brushed aside any suggestion of resignation Tuesday as House Republican leaders struggled to contain the fallout from an election-year scandal involving sexually explicit messages from the disgraced former Florida Republican lawmaker to underage male pages.

``I know that he wants all the facts to come out and he wants to ensure that these children up there on Capitol Hill are protected,'' the president said. ``I'm confident he will provide whatever leadership he can to law enforcement in this investigation.''

``I was dismayed and shocked to learn about Congressman Foley's unacceptable behavior,'' Bush told reporters.

``I was disgusted by the revelations and disappointed that he would violate the trust of the citizens who placed him in office,'' Bush said. ``Families have every right to expect that when they send their children to be a congressional page in Washington that those children will be safe.''

The president spoke in a courtyard of the George W. Bush Elementary School. Inside, the president visited young children practicing their reading in the school library named after his wife, Laura. The school has 858 students in grades kindergarten through seventh grade.

Bush's comments on the Foley scandal came as he also addressed a string of deadly attacks in schools in the past week. He said Americans have a responsibility to protect their children.

``Our school children should never fear their safety when they enter into a classroom,'' the president said.

``Laura and I were saddened and deeply concerned, like a lot of citizens around the country, about the school shootings that took place in Pennsylvania, Colorado and Wisconsin. We grieve with the parents and we share the concerns of those who worry about safety in schools,'' Bush said.

On Monday night, the White House announced a conference of education and law enforcement experts on how the federal government might help communities prevent violence and deal with its aftermath. No date has been set and it was unclear whether Bush would attend.