White House Briefing, October 30, 2003


Thursday  October 30, 2003


Office of the Press Secretary (Columbus, Ohio)
October 30, 2003


Aboard Air Force One En route Columbus, Ohio

10:38 A.M. EST

MR. McCLELLAN: Good morning. Let me go through the President's schedule for the day, then a couple of announcements and we'll jump into questions.

The President has his usual briefing on board Air Force One a short time ago, en route to Columbus. Upon arrival there will be a USA Freedom Corps greeter, Leslie Gagne, who is an active volunteer with the Special Olympics. Then the President will make remarks at a Bush-Cheney 2004 luncheon. Then we will go to Central Aluminum Company in Columbus. Central Aluminum employees 80 people, it's a small business that's been in operation since '64, and produces customized aluminum products like window frames, picture frames, handles on filing cabinets, things of that nature.

One thing, in fact, the President will talk about, may touch on in his remarks, is that comprehensive energy legislation will help provide more affordable and stable supply of natural gas, which will help improve economic security by allowing companies like Central Aluminum to expand or reinvest from the savings it would realize on what it pays for natural gas now, they have seen a significant increase in its natural gas prices over the last year.

Then the President will make remarks on energy and the economy. The President will be urging Congress to get a comprehensive energy legislation -- get comprehensive energy legislation passed this year, and stress that that's important to strengthening our economic security. And as I said, he will talk about how a stable, reliable, affordable energy supplies will boost our economy even more.

Then following that, we go to San Antonio. The Freedom Corps greeter there will be Thom Ricks, who is active in a nonprofit group called "Christmas in April," which helps rehabilitate homes for low income homeowners, particularly people with disabilities, seniors and families with children. And then the President will participate in the Bush-Cheney 2004 reception in San Antonio this evening, before we return to Crawford.

A couple of announcements. Judge Gonzales will be the special guest on "Ask the White House," today at 1:00 p.m. Today marks the one year anniversary of the date that the President outlined his plan for timely consideration of judicial nominees. This was a plan that the President outlined that would provide a permanent, bipartisan solution to help end delays and politics that have undermined the judicial confirmation process.

Other announcements, scheduling updates. We've already announced on Monday that the President will be participating in a campaign event in Alabama. He will also participate in an event and will make remarks on the economy while we're in Alabama. Then on November 7th, we've got a campaign event in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. On November 10th, a campaign event in Little Rock, Arkansas. And also on the 10th, in Greenville-Spartanburg, South Carolina. On the 13th, we have campaign events in Orlando, Florida and Fort Myers, Florida. On the 25th of November, the President will participate in campaign events in Las Vegas, Nevada and Scottsdale, Arizona.

And with that --

Q: These are all day trips? All the campaign events you just announced?

MR. McCLELLAN: Should be. I don't know that for sure at this point, it's a little bit early to get that far into it, but it should be.

Q: Any reaction to the latest GDP figures -- fastest since 1984?

MR. McCLELLAN: Our economy is growing and getting stronger. I think today's numbers are another positive sign that the tax relief advocated and signed by the President is working. We are getting more money into people's pockets, money that people can use to invest and spend and get our economy growing. And I think it's important to keep in mind that most independent economic forecasters predict that our economy will continue to grow above the historical averages of 3.3 percent since 1960, but that we won't see growth as fast as we are this quarter.

Q: We won't see it as fast?

MR. McCLELLAN: In coming quarters, most independent forecasters believe that it will continue to grow above historical averages, but not as fast as we see in this quarter. While the economy is moving in the right direction because of the action that we have taken, there is more work to be done, and I think the President may talk a little bit about this in his remarks later today at the Central Aluminum Company.

We need to continue to act to build upon the steps we have taken to get our economy growing so that we can continue to translate growth into job creation. There are signs that the labor market is improving. And the President will continue to emphasize that there's more to do, and that we need to -- Congress needs to take steps to act on his six-point plan for strengthening our economy even more. And that includes -- specifically, today, the focus will be on passing a comprehensive energy plan, but I think he will touch again on his six-point plan for strengthening our economy even more.

Q: Secretary Snow is taking the foreign exchange report to Congress today. I don't know what it says, but inevitably it's out already. Do you have anything to say on that?

MR. McCLELLAN: First, we'll let Secretary Snow testify before Congress, which I think he is probably doing now. So we'll let him speak first.

Q: Iran says it's not going to hand over al Qaeda operatives. Does that mean that we're not going to be willing to reopen limited talks with Iran?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I don't think that Secretary Armitage's remarks said exactly that. They reiterated what we have previously said, that if it's in our interest, we are prepared to have talks on areas of mutual concern. We have in the past, on Iraq and Afghanistan, but -- yes, we've made it clear that -- and will continue to make it clear to Iran -- that they need to turn over those al Qaeda members in Iran to their countries of origin.

Q: Isn't that a condition?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's an important step to changing relations. Iran needs to change its behavior in a number of ways, and that is one.

Q: Is that a condition, though, for restarting some sort of limited --

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, we haven't said that we're having discussions with them. There are existing channels of communication that we have had in place and continue to have in place. But what Secretary Armitage was talking about the other day was simply reiterating our policy toward Iran.

Q: There's a story in the Times today saying you want to speed up training of Iraqi security forces in Iraq. Is that --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, you heard the President's remarks in the news conference the other day, you've heard me talk about this issue a little bit over the past couple of days. And Secretary Rumsfeld, I believe, is briefing later today. And I think it's appropriate for our military leaders to be the ones that talk about the steps we are taking militarily.

Again, I talked about some of this yesterday, the President talked in his news conference about how we're constantly working to adapt to or adjust to the enemy. There are still dangerous people in Iraq and dangerous areas within Iraq. Our military is working to enhance and accelerate our efforts, including accelerating our efforts to get more Iraqis involved in the security of their country. There are some 85,000 Iraqis already involved in the security of their country. They're involved in the police forces. Tens of thousands are involved in the police forces. They're involved in the civil defense forces. Iraqis are involved in the -- continue to be more involved in the border patrol. Iraqis are -- you're seeing the initial troops in a new Iraqi army. So we are continuing to work to accelerate those efforts as we move forward on the security front.

I would reiterate, too, that our military continues to stay on the -- our coalition continues to say on the offensive in Iraq to go after the holdouts of the former regime and the foreign terrorists who are in the country. They are working on targeted strikes and working to be able to deploy quickly to prevent attacks from happening in the first place. They are working to strengthen our border security, as well, along with getting more Iraqis involved in those efforts. We are working to improve our intelligence gathering, so that we can have more actionable intelligence to act on.

Q: China and North Korea have agreed to -- in principle to restart the six-party discussions. Do you guys really think -- does the administration really think that is North Korea's intent, and is this idea for a security agreement still being moved forward?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we are encouraged by the reports we have seen that North Korea has agreed in principle to continue the six-party talks. The President has made it very clear that the multilateral or the multi-party process provides the best hope for achieving our shared objective of getting North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions and end its nuclear weapons program. We appreciate the involvement of China and their active participation in the talks.

Q: What about the security agreement, the idea for some kind of a security thing, is that moving forward still?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's -- we want to work through the multilateral framework on providing some sort of security assurance. But North Korea must end its nuclear weapons program in a verifiable and irreversible way. We've made that very clear.

END 10:51 A.M. EST


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