White House Press Briefing, April 23, 2004
|Friday April 23,
THE WHITE HOUSE
PRESS GAGGLE BY TRENT DUFFY AND JIM CONNAUGHTON
Aboard Air Force One
9:56 A.M. EDT
MR. DUFFY: -- affiliate of Keep America Beautiful. The event at the Reserve, the President goes to -- he'll make remarks and then attends a Victory 2004 Luncheon in Naples, at a private residence and goes to Coral Gables for another Victory 2004 Luncheon.
Q: Is that $25,000 a plate, or per person?
MR. DUFFY: You'd have to get that from the RNC or the campaign, I don't have those figures.
Q: The earlier one is closed?
MR. DUFFY: That's my understanding, because it's a private residence.
Q: Also, another housekeeping matter. The pocket schedule says he goes back to the White House tonight, but the schedule for today from the White House last night said Camp David tonight. Which is it?
MR. DUFFY: I'll check that. I believe it's Camp David.
MS. GODFREY: It is Camp David.
MR. DUFFY: It is Camp David.
Q: Are you going to release the name of the host of the fundraiser at some point today?
MR. DUFFY: That would be something the RNC could provide, but I'll check.
Q: Do you know whether Mel Martinez is on the scene today anywhere with us?
MR. DUFFY: I don't know. We're still trying to check on that, Scott.
Q: Can I ask you about the flags -- the coffins, rather. Is the President upset by the release of these photos?
MR. DUFFY: Well, the President has seen the photos and his reaction is what he said at the news conference last week, which is that it's a reminder of the sacrifice that our men and women are providing in Iraq and around the world to protect Americans and to deliver freedom for others. And it's a testament to their service. And it's a stark reminder on why we must win. And that as high a price as this is, the price of failure would be that much higher, because you would essentially turn Iraq back over to people who have killed our troops, who have mutilated American bodies and who have participated in the killing of innocent men, women and children -- which is why we must stay firm and transfer sovereignty to Iraq and make sure that we win.
Q: If the coffins are useful, perhaps we should keep releasing these kind of photos. He sounds like he's in favor of them being released.
MR. DUFFY: I didn't say that, Scott. I said the President spoke to the nation about how he feels when he meets with the families of the fallen, about how he grieves with them and our thoughts and prayers are with the families.
In all of this, we must pay attention to the privacy and to the sensitivity of the families of the fallen. And that's what the policy is based on and that has to be the utmost concern.
Q: Was he involved with the Pentagon decision, or was he aware of it when they told the Air Force, no more photos?
MR. DUFFY: I would have to check on that. I don't know the answer to that question.
Q: So was he disturbed that these were released? I mean, was he upset that these photos were released?
MR. DUFFY: I didn't ask him that, Adam.
Q: Okay. I mean, the reaction he had makes it sound like it was useful, but you're saying that he supports the policy of not releasing any more; is that what you're saying?
MR. DUFFY: We have to remember that the interest of the families and their privacy and their sensitivity during these tough times is what the policy is grounded in. And that has to be his top concern, and it is.
Q: Does he feel that the pictures today invaded anyone's privacy?
MR. DUFFY: I didn't get into that with him.
Q: One woman whose son was killed was quoted as saying, We need to stop hiding the deaths of our young. What do you say to her?
MR. DUFFY: I think the President speaks openly of it and that America knows full well that our men and women are serving, and serving brilliantly, both in Iraq and Afghanistan and around the world. And America is well aware that this is a war against terrorism and it's a global war against terrorism, and that it's necessary at this point to ensure that those who have fallen have not provided that sacrifice in vain.
Q: So the message is the ban on the photos is going to be maintained?
MR. DUFFY: The message is that the sensitivities and the privacy of the families of the fallen must be the first priority and remain to be the first priority.
Q: On a separate topic, on North Korea, is there any discussion of the U.S. providing additional aid after this train accident?
MR. DUFFY: Well, we're still getting information, Adam, as to the accident. So I'll have to get back to you. I would refer you to, perhaps, the State Department in the interim.
Q: Week ahead?
MR. DUFFY: Yes, week ahead.
Q: I've got a question for Jim, too.
MR. DUFFY: Oh, I'm sorry. Jim is going to brief here on today's event. Sorry.
The week ahead: remarks at the American -- Monday, April 26th, remarks at the American Association of Community Colleges Annual Convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota. And then he will attend a Victory 2004 luncheon --
MR. DUFFY: In Minneapolis. Tuesday, April 27th, no public events to announce at this time. Wednesday, April 28th, he meets with the Prime Minister of Sweden in the Oval Office. Thursday, April 29th, no public events to announce at this time. Friday, April 30, 2004, meets with the Prime Minister of Canada in the Oval Office. He signs the Indian Education Executive Order in Room 350 of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, and he meets with the President of Guatemala in the Oval Office. And on Saturday he will be attending the White House Correspondents Association Annual Dinner in Washington.
Unless there are other questions on the week ahead -- which I wouldn't have answers to -- I'll turn it over to --
Q: Briefly, one other topic, too. Baathists allowed to join the government, allowed to join military leadership -- do you want to weigh in on that?
MR. DUFFY: Ambassador Bremer just had a press conference on that while we were in the air, so I would refer you to his comments.
Q: Hey, Trent, I'm new to this Air Force One thing -- so what was Laura Bush doing with the President this morning? Coming on Marine One and then getting --
MR. DUFFY: I'll have to check on that. I'm not familiar with the First Lady's schedule, but I'll check.
Here's Jim Connaughton.
MR. CONNAUGHTON: Hello, I'm Jim Connaughton, Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. I just want to give you a quick briefing on what we're going to do today. This is the second part of our emphasis during Earth Day Week, and also Volunteer Week, on conservation, volunteer opportunities to really do -- for volunteers to be personal stewards and do their part in the spirit of conservation.
Yesterday, we were in the Gulf of Maine, and today we're off the Gulf Coast of Florida and we'll be at the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, which is very similar in function to the research reserve we were -- we attended yesterday. The Reserve supports a wide variety of marine and terrestrial plant and animal species. There's been a lot of invasive species -- these are non-native plant species that can come into ecosystems and actually crowd out the original vegetation and actually degrade habitat, destroy habitat.
One of the bases for the reserve is to do the research and work necessary to figure out how to correct that problem. Using satellite-based geographic information systems, which is a very powerful tool these days in ecological management, the reserve has mapped the key areas that need restoration, and that's what we'll see today.
There's work underway to remove these various invasive plants. They include the Australian pine, that's a tree species, the Melaleuca -- and you'll see that, it's sort of a choking species -- and the Brazilian Pepper, which is a particularly nasty species --
Q: The Brazilian what ?
MR. CONNAUGHTON: Pepper.
Q: Would you mind spelling all those, since the President is removing them?
MR. CONNAUGHTON: Yes, it's Australian Pine. That's straight forward.
Q: Australian Pine?
MR. CONNAUGHTON: Pine, yes. Melaleuca, me-l --
Q: "N" like Nancy?
MR. CONNAUGHTON: "M" as in Mary, e-l-a-l-e-u-c-a. And -- what's that?
Q: What is --
MR. CONNAUGHTON: It's not a tree plant, but it's a very large aloe-type plant. It's a thick -- a thick, greeny, green plant.
MR. CONNAUGHTON: Well, you can call it a shrub, but it's pretty big and thick.
MR. CONNAUGHTON: Ought to be careful with that, that's right. (Laughter)
And then the Brazilian Pepper is like a poison ivy species, as I understand it. You'll hear more from the research people on the trip.
There's a number of techniques to use it, but the most basic one is good, old-fashioned hard work. It requires individuals doing a lot of hand-pulling. There's some mechanical removal. But, again, it's in a very -- small bits at a time. And then there's targeted chemical treatment and then biological control agents.
The purpose of all of this is to remove the plants, reinstate the native plants, and bring the ecosystem back. Now, they're having great success at the Reserve, and they then can replicate this across Florida, which helps bring back increased sea turtle nesting, and actually it helps to stabilize beaches, as well, because you get a more diverse -- a more diverse habitat.
The Reserve has restored 2,000 acres so far, and is working to restore about 2,000 more acres. The other component of this, which is a very important one, is the Reserve is an outdoor classroom and laboratory for students and scientists. They just opened a 16,500 square foot environmental learning center and marine laboratory. When you get the community together with the federal state partners and they put up real money to build these education centers, that's a clear indication that the commitment to these restoration and the long-term protections of the Reserve will stay in place for a long time to come.
Finally, about 135 volunteers participated in resource and management activities on a semi-regular basis at the Reserve over the last year, which is very -- that's great participation on these projects.
There'll be a Freedom Corps -- you heard the word on the Freedom Corps Award that will be -- the President will be announcing to one of the recipients. As well, there's a Freedom Corps team that's volunteering at the Reserve. They're based out of Charleston, South Carolina. They started work at the Reserve April 12th, and they'll complete their service there on May 11th. So they're getting good first-hand knowledge of ecosystem volunteerism.
Q: Can I ask you two questions, Jim, if you're done?
MR. CONNAUGHTON: Yes.
Q: First of all, the President, is he taking a whack at all three of these invasive species?
MR. CONNAUGHTON: I don't know. I don't know what they have planned.
Q: -- described his own activities?
Q: What is he doing as part of his activities?
MR. CONNAUGHTON: He and his brother, Jeb, are going to get out there and help do some work pulling out some of the invasives.
Q: The other question is, too --
MR. CONNAUGHTON: I don't know which one, so we'll have to -- we'll find out when we get there.
Q: I'd be grateful. I don't want to get too far into the weeds or reeds, if you will, on this -- (laughter) -- on the wetlands policy that was reversed -- forgive me if that's the wrong word -- in December.
MR. CONNAUGHTON: That is --
Q: Is that the right word?
MR. CONNAUGHTON: That is the wrong word.
Q: What's the best word?
MR. CONNAUGHTON: By the way, the President will be highlighting our new wetlands policy today. Again, he'll be highlighting that again today, that he announced yesterday. We came into office pushing to get passage of a historic set of conservation programs in the Farm Bill, which we achieved in 2002. We came into office pushing to reauthorize the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, which we also achieved in 2002.
With those programs in place, we have pushed for the budget increases necessary for this country to go from a policy, a long-standing policy of no net loss to a new policy, which is to gain wetlands in America for the first time in the development of this country.
And so there has been complete forward progress by the President and his team since day one on this. And where we are today -- in December -- we have taken comment on what we should do to implement a Supreme Court decision that dealt with a regulatory program, one of 30 programs we use to deal with wetlands. We took comment on that. Based on that comment, we decided that we did not need to take any further steps in terms of implementing the direction of the Supreme Court. It appeared the program was working fine. And we then worked toward this moment that we announced yesterday, which is, how do we get the nation on track toward a very significant increase in wetlands for the first time.
Q: My real question is this. Senator Kerry suggested that a decision -- I think it was the same decision -- the Bush administration would roll back or reverse or reconsider its December decision if the President wins reelection. Is that decision subject to change, or was that a final decision in December?
MR. CONNAUGHTON: The President has been steadfast when he campaigned for President and when he took office, and we've governed on a policy of stopping the loss of wetlands. And we are now moving forward to increase wetlands. There has been no change in that direction. And the President's fiscal year '05 budget is the best indicator of his support for increasing wetlands.
Q: You wouldn't roll it back then?
MR. CONNAUGHTON: We are headed forward, to gain wetlands in America. It's something we should all be celebrating.
Q: How many wetlands are there? How many hundred thousand?
MR. CONNAUGHTON: There are 110 million acres of wetlands in the lower 48 states.
Q: That's all kinds of agriculture and everything else?
MR. CONNAUGHTON: Yes.
MR. DUFFY: Thanks.
END 10:11 A.M. EDT
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