White House Daily Briefing, December 2, 2003


Tuesday  December 2, 2003

Office of the Press Secretary
(Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)

December 2, 2003


Aboard Air Force One En route Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

10:35 A.M. EST

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me run through the President's morning, and the rest of the day. The President spoke with President Mubarak this morning. The two leaders discussed contacts between -- or contacts that are currently underway between the government of Israel and the new Palestinian cabinet, as well as the situation in Iraq.

President Mubarak noted that he had met earlier today with Assistant Secretary of State Burns, who is in the region to talk about moving forward with discussions between the government of Israel and the new Palestinian cabinet. And that was pretty much a summary of the call.

The President had his usual briefings this morning. And as you are aware, he participated in the bill signing of the Adoption Promotion Act of 2003 -- you have his remarks from that already.

Upon arrival in Pittsburgh, the Freedom Corps greeter will be Mila Nguyen. She is an active volunteer in the Pittsburgh community. She volunteers with Pittsburgh Cares, which is a nonprofit that creates volunteer opportunities for individuals in the Pittsburgh area and she's been involved in a number of different volunteer activities, from helping children at MHMR centers to helping senior citizens to helping collect trash in the Pittsburgh area, as well.

Following that, the President makes remarks at the Bush-Cheney 2004 luncheon in Pittsburgh. And then we go back to the White House, where he will participate in a photo opportunity with some of the NASCAR champions. This really is an event to congratulate the 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Series point champion, Matt Kenseth. I expect that some of the former champions and some of the other top drivers will be there for this event, as well, as we congratulate the Winston Cup series champion.

And, let's see, a couple of other things. He will also be on "Ask the White House" -- the NASCAR Winston Cup winner will also be on "Ask the White House" at 4:00 p.m. this afternoon.

And one other quick announcement. The President will participate in a series of bill signings over the course of the next week, which began earlier today by signing the Adoption Promotion Act. The President looks forward to signing the Healthy Forest Restoration Act tomorrow at the White House -- or, I'm sorry, at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This common sense legislation will help protect communities, save wildlife and restore forest health.

Later in the week, he will also be signing the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act, and the National Consumer Credit Reporting System Implementation Act. And then on Monday, he will sign historic legislation that strengthens and modernizes Medicare for our nation's seniors, including providing seniors with long awaited prescription drug coverage.

Q: That's at the White House?

MR. McCLELLAN: We'll let you know, we're finalizing all those details. We'll get you more information as that's finalized, but it will be in the Washington area.

The bill signings reflect a time of bipartisan accomplishment on important priorities for the American people, and the President looks forward to participating in all these bill signings over the course of the next week.

With that, I'll be glad to go into questions.

Q: Tom Usher, from U.S. Steel, Arlen Specter, flying up today, both said they were going to argue to the President that he not lift the steel sanctions. My question is, is the President still open to arguments at this point, or to changing his mind?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we have been listening to producers, to consumers, to members of Congress and others, about their views on the issue. And the President has visited with people during various events across the country about this issue, that have expressed their views. The President still has not made a decision; it remains under review. I expect he will have a decision -- or make a decision in due course.

Q: So is he still open to new arguments, or to listening to people?

MR. McCLELLAN: It continues to be under view, and we have been listening to the views of others and of all interested parties, and we continue to. So, yes.

Q: Can I ask you about reports from Iraq, of the arrest of a Saddam lieutenant, al-Duri? Do you know anything about whether that's --

MR. McCLELLAN: I've seen those reports, and we have no confirmation of that at this point.

Q: Of either arrest or killing him, or anything --

MR. McCLELLAN: That's right.

Q: Is the First Lady going to go to Afghanistan?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think her press secretary addressed that yesterday.

Q: Can you tell us if she does?

MR. McCLELLAN: I will leave it where her press secretary addressed it yesterday. I think Mr. Johndroe did able job of addressing that yesterday.

Q: I'll volunteer for the secret mission. (Laughter.)

MR. McCLELLAN: Anything else?

Q: Who is the President's favorite NASCAR driver?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, like I said, there will be a number of champions there today, and he looks forward to visiting with each and every one of them. There are some former champions, there is the current champion, and then there are some others that I think finished in -- in like the top 10 this past year.

Q: Did he watch any of the series?

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me double check.

Q: The Israelis are protesting a decision by U.S. officials to meet with this unofficial delegation of Israelis and Palestinians who have negotiated an unofficial peace agreement. Are those Israeli protests causing you to rethink whether that's a wise --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you're referring to some of those members that will be in Washington later this week. I understand there may be some meetings at the State Department. I think for specifics about that, you ought to obviously check with the State Department. As far as what we've said, is that we continue to believe that the best path forward toward realizing the President's vision, of two states living side by side in peace and security, is the road map. And we've always said that discussions by private citizens or entities can be useful, but that the best path forward to realizing the President's vision is the road map.

Q: Does the President support these meetings?

MR. McCLELLAN: We continue to -- as I noted, Assistant Secretary of State Burns has been in the region meeting with officials of both parties, and working on ways to move forward on discussions between the government of Israel and the new Palestinian cabinet. And so we continue to remain actively engaged in working with the parties to move forward on the road map that was agreed to by a number of entities and countries.

Q: Did you hear anything on the plane about a campaign finance decision?


Q: It didn't come down, as far as you know?

MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't heard anything about it.

Q: Is the President going to have any meetings with the steel chairman -- any private time with the steel chairman today?

MR. McCLELLAN: Up here in Pittsburgh? I don't know if there's anything specifically scheduled, but I'll try to keep tabs on it for you, and let you know. But, no, there's nothing scheduled, per se.

Q: But he will see him in the course of --

MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, I imagine so, yes, I imagine he would. I'll try to keep you posted if there's any more.


10:43 A.M. EST


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