White House Briefing, November 7, 2003
THE WHITE HOUSE
PRESS GAGGLE WITH SCOTT McCLELLAN
Aboard Air Force One En Route Winston-Salem, North Carolina
10:53 A.M. EST
MR. McCLELLAN: Good morning. Let me run through the President's day. First of all, this morning the President made three phone calls to world leaders. The President spoke with President Mesa of Bolivia. The President reiterated United States support for Bolivia's constitutional process and democratic institutions, and the President expressed confidence that Bolivia would continue down the pathway of democracy and greater prosperity. The two leaders discussed President Mesa's plans to hold a national referendum on the development and export of Bolivia's natural gas resources.
The two leaders also talked about the need to continue close cooperation between the two countries on counternarcotic efforts. The Presidents noted that the two governments are coordinating bilateral efforts such as coca eradication and alternative development strategies for farmers now producing coca.
Then the President spoke with President Aznar of Spain. The two leaders discussed the situation in Iraq and both reiterated their commitment to support the Iraqi people against former regime loyalists, criminals and foreign terrorists. They also discussed the transatlantic relations more broadly, and both stressed the importance of transatlantic solidarity in addressing the threats of the 21st century.
Then the President spoke with President Kwasniewski of Poland. The President expressed condolences over the death of a Polish officer yesterday in Iraq. And both leaders reaffirmed their determination to maintain the fight against those terrorists in Iraq who seek to take away the new freedoms of the Iraqi people. And both leaders said they would stay in close consultation about the common challenges that confront the United States, Poland, and the rest of the world.
And that's the readout from his phone calls this morning. Then the President had his usual briefings. Following that, he taped his radio address for tomorrow.
Q: Topic on that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Economy.
Upon arrival here in a few minutes, the President will meet with a Freedom Corps greeter, Brian Koontz. He's been an active community volunteer for 19 years, serving as a volunteer firefighter and first responder. Then the President will participate in the campaign luncheon. And following that, the President will go to Forsyth Technical Community College to have a conversation with students and faculty at Forsyth Community College about the economy, and particularly focusing on job training programs to help unemployed Americans who want to get back to work, help them participate in the growing and changing economy that we face, and be retrained in fields such as biotechnology and health care and high-technology manufacturing, to name a few.
Let me just mention a little bit about this, too. You all are aware this region of North Carolina has been particularly hard hit with some job losses, particularly the textile and manufacturing sector. And that's why the job retraining aspects are very important to what we are doing to get workers and families back to work in the region.
On June 9th of 2003, the Department of Labor announced an award of just over $750,000 to the Forsyth Technical Community College as part of its high growth training initiative. That is an initiative that the President directed the Department of Labor to undertake. It's where they provide funding for public-private partnerships to retrain workers for the jobs of the new economy.
And then there's some contribution of over $150,000 from the Community College and business partners. And these funds have gone to the establishment of a biotechnology associate degree training program, which is designed to give workers the necessary and sought-after skills to move from employment in some of the industries I mentioned into a growing biotechnology sector.
And one person that was instrumental in bringing this about was Congressman Burr who is with us on the plane this morning, traveling with us -- who was instrumental in this.
Q: Do you know what the unemployment rate is for this area?
MR. McCLELLAN: Hang on, I'll get to questions. Then we return this afternoon to -- the President will go to Camp David for the weekend.
One other announcement: Secretary Chao is on Ask The White House at 2:00 p.m. today. I expect you'll see other administration officials out from our economic team, as well.
Q: Do you feel like the economy has now turned the corner based on the numbers today?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the economy continues to grow and jobs are being created. Today's employment report is another positive sign for America's workers and families. The economy is moving in the right direction. But we cannot be complacent. The President is not satisfied because there are still people who are looking for work who cannot find a job. I think that he will talk some about this today when he has his conversation with the students and faculty at the community college.
This is an area that has been hard-hit. The President will not rest as long as there are people who are looking for work and cannot find a job. I think that he will continue to talk about how there is more to do. That's why we need to act on his six-point plan to create an even stronger environment for job creation.
Q: Do you see a decision on extending the steel tariffs?
MR. McCLELLAN: There's no update on that from yesterday, what I said yesterday.
Q: Will he make a decision before Monday, when the WTO --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not going to speculate about the timing of any decision or any decision itself.
Q: Scott, you mentioned the President's condolences for the officer that was killed in Iraq -- after the helicopter that was shot down last week, and another helicopter, apparently, has gone down -- that's under investigation right now -- what's the White House policy on commenting on the deaths of American servicemen and women?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you hear the President talk often about how we are saddened at the loss of every life. We are saddened at the loss of any one of our troops who pay the ultimate sacrifice serving their nation in defending freedom. But our troops are involved in an important cause where the stakes are high. The international community certainly recognizes that the stakes are high in Iraq. The foreign terrorists and the Baathists and others recognize that the stakes are high in Iraq. And our coalition will continue to stay the course and finish the job to achieve our shared goal of a peaceful, free and prosperous Iraq. That is critical to our efforts to fight the war on terrorism. And we will prevail in this central front on terrorism.
Q: You often make those statements generally about the troops and the sacrifice that they're making. Is there a reason that the President and the White House doesn't address actual incidents --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think you heard the President was asked about the downing of the Chinook earlier this week, and he talked about -- he responded to that. He said that our men and women who are serving and sacrificing in the military are serving in an important cause. We are saddened any time any one of our men and women in the military pay the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of freedom. The cause that they are involved in is an important one. It is making the world a safer and better place. It is making America more secure.
September 11th taught us the importance of confronting the dangerous new threats that we face. That's exactly what we're doing. We are forever grateful to our men and women in the military who are serving and sacrificing on behalf of this important cause.
Q: Was he specifically told in his briefings this morning about the latest chopper crash that killed six people?
MR. McCLELLAN: He is aware of the reports, and we don't have really more information than you have at this point, which is that it was a Black Hawk helicopter that went down. And our military leaders in the region are continuing to look into that incident. That's the latest reports that I have, which is what you have seen. We will continue to monitor that situation --
Q: That's what he was told?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes.
Q: Scott, I didn't hear what you said about textiles. There's a lot of frustration here that the administration hasn't acted on what the industry sees is unfair trade practices. Is he going to have anything to say about that --
MR. McCLELLAN: Secretary Evans has just been in the region ahead of us -- I've just been told we've got two minutes before landing -- talking about that. We are continuing to work and fight to make sure that there is a level playing field for America's workers and families. And we will not hesitate to seek trade remedies when there is unfair competition. We'll continue to fight in the interest of America's families and America's workers.
Q: Is that a suggestion that you're ready to do something?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that is something Secretary Evans has talked about the -- November 17th -- in terms of specifically regarding textiles. But we continue to -- and Secretary Evans has been in China and is reiterating what the President has said with Chinese leaders, as well, the importance of making sure that we have free trade and a level playing field for America's workers.
It's also important that we take action here at home to help those who have lost their jobs in the textile and manufacturing sectors -- sectors that have been particularly hard-hit over the course of the tough times we went through, the inherited recession. That's why the President has acted to get the economy growing again. It continues to move in the right direction, but there's more to do. There are also important steps that we can take on the job retraining front to help these workers who were displaced find employment, particularly in sectors that are growing fast with this changing economy that we are in -- the biotechnology sector, the health care sector, high-tech manufacturing sector. That's what the President will talk some about today in his conversation with some of these students that have lost their jobs and are being retrained to meet the demands of our growing and changing economy.
Q: Several more federal judges have stayed the partial birth abortion order. Is there any disappointment in the White House that this is happening?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think we have made it very clear that we intend to vigorously defend this law. Congress worked to address the legal issues and ensure its constitutionality, and we will vigorously defend it in the courts.
Q: Thank you.
END 11:05 A.M. EST
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MR. McCLELLAN: Let me go through the week ahead. On Monday, November 10th, the President will participate in a Bush-Cheney 2004 luncheon in Little Rock, Arkansas, which was previously announced. Then he will participate in a conversation on the economy with employers and employees in Greer, South Carolina. Then he attends a Bush-Cheney reception in Greenville, South Carolina.
On Tuesday, November 11th, he participates in a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington, Virginia. Then he'll make remarks on Veterans Day in Arlington, Virginia, to pay tribute to our veterans who have served and sacrificed in defense of freedom -- to all our veterans who have served and sacrificed in the defense of freedom. Then he will make remarks at the Heritage Foundation President's Club luncheon at the Ronald Reagan Building International Trade Center.
On Wednesday, November 12th, the President participates in a photo opportunity with the new Environmental Protection Agency Administrator in the Oval Office. That will be stills. Then the President will present the Medal of Freedom to NATO Secretary General George Robertson in the Roosevelt Room. And then later in the day he will participate in a presentation of the National Medal of Arts Awards in the Oval Office.
Thursday, November 13th, he attends a Bush-Cheney 2004 luncheon in Buena Vista, Florida. Then he'll make remarks on Medicare in Florida. Then he attends a Bush-Cheney 2004 reception in Fort Myers, Florida.
On Friday, November 14th, he participates in the National Humanities Medal Awards in the Oval, and he signs a proclamation in honor of the National Employer's Support of the Guard and Reserve Week in the East Room. And then he departs for Camp David, where he will remain until Sunday.
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