White House Daily Briefing, July 25, 2003
|Friday July 25, 2003
THE WHITE HOUSE
PRESS BRIEFING BY SCOTT MCCLELLAN
PRESS BRIEFING BY SCOTT McCLELLAN
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
2:39 P.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon. The President began the day a little bit after 7:00 a.m. this morning by stopping by the Korean War Memorial to honor and pay tribute to those who served, as well as those who sacrificed during the Korean War. This was an opportunity for the President to mark tomorrow's 50th anniversary of the military armistice agreement relating to the Korean War.
The President was also pleased to welcome Prime Minister Abbas to the White House. The two leaders had a good, positive discussion on the progress being made since Aqaba, and the importance of continuing to focus on moving forward toward the President's vision of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security.
As noted earlier, the leaders talked about the progress being made, and the President emphasized the importance about this being a time of possibility in the Middle East and how it's important to seize these opportunities for peace and progress. The President continued to make it clear that all parties have responsibilities to meet, and that we will do what we can to help them meet those commitments and responsibilities.
The President also had a good discussion about ways we can help improve the lives of the Palestinian people. The President asked the Prime Minister how we can continue to improve the lives of Palestinian families in the immediate future, by getting the economy growing, and he was pleased to announce the establishment of a joint Palestine economic development group between the United States and Palestinians so that we can take practical steps to encourage economic growth and jobs for the Palestinian people.
The two leaders discussed a range of important issues from settlements, to prisoners, to security. And as the President has said, security must continue to be a high and immediate priority so that we can move forward in other areas, as well. But the President is pleased with the progress being made, and we look forward to meeting with Prime Minister Sharon next week.
And with that, I'll be happy to take questions. Steve.
QUESTION: The statement about Liberia, will U.S. troops actually set foot on the ground in Liberia, or are they just going to stay off-shore, doing something in their ships?
MR. McCLELLAN: Steve, right now, as we noted earlier, the President has directed the Secretary of Defense to position military capabilities off the coast of Liberia, so that we can support ECOWAS in its efforts to get in there and make sure a cease-fire takes hold, and get humanitarian assistance to the people of Liberia.
We've been very engaged in conversations with ECOWAS and the United Nations over the past few weeks. We've been working to determine how we can help the West African states move forward. And the President emphasized earlier his concern for the suffering and his commitment to helping enable ECOWAS get in there, so that we can provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Liberia.
Beyond that, I think in terms of specific military efforts, I would direct you to the Department of Defense on those specifics, as the President mentioned, as well.
Q: Can you say that U.S. troops may be used in Liberia, that that remains a presidential option?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think it remains where the President left it earlier in his remarks, that we are doing everything we can right now to enable the West Africans to get in there. And that's why we're positioning our military capabilities off the coast.
Q: But he also said that he expects the United Nations to be responsible for relieving U.S. troops in short order. Relieving U.S. troops from what?
MR. McCLELLAN: And about the importance of working with the U.N. on a political solution, as well. But in terms of the specific military movements, that's questions I would direct you to the Pentagon.
Q: One other thing, the State Department briefing today talked about contract workers doing something -- not clear what to me. What would contract workers do, versus what the military might do to aid ECOWAS?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we previously -- the State Department has previously announced support for the ECOWAS vanguard force that's going in there, and in terms of financial assistance. And I believe that may be what they're referring to.
Q: It sounds like what the President is not doing today -- and I'm asking is he ruling out a big force of American troops in Liberia imposing and keeping a peace? Is that ruled out, and ECOWAS is essentially to carry the ball here?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let me tell you what's ruled in right now, the President's commitment to continue to help the Economic Community of West African States so that they can get their vanguard force in there. The conditions -- we need to help them create the conditions so that we can provide humanitarian assistance to the Liberian people. And that's where things stand right now. Obviously, if there's anything to update you on, we will as that happens.
Q: So he's not going to -- these troops are not going to be on the ground in Liberia, they are there at this point just to help ECOWAS?
MR. McCLELLAN: Right now they are there to be positioned off the coast of Liberia so that we can help ECOWAS get in there. And that's where it stands.
Q: They're not there yet.
Q: Let me just follow up on the Palestinian question. On settlements, it sounds as if the President is saying that the emphasis on fighting terrorism must continue before, as he put it, we can tackle these bigger issues. Why can't settlements be dealt with now? What do settlements do --
MR. McCLELLAN: The President has consistently spoken out about the need to end settlements. And I don't think -- you're trying to separate the two. He's consistently spoken about how the Israelis need to end the settlements, not in a conditional way. But he also emphasized the importance of fighting terrorism and appreciates the steps that are being taken. And we need to continue to make sure all parties do their part to fight terrorism and continue to make more progress in that area, as well.
Q: Scott, let me ask you about the security component, because that is, the President said, the most important part of this. There was talk some time ago about setting a date certain for the dismantlement of groups like Hamas. Is there any other -- any real progress that the Palestinians can actually demonstrate in this regard, other than a general pledge to do that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, they're taking steps to address the security situation. And the President -- that was some of the conversation over lunch, as well. They continued to talk about some of the security issues, as well as the importance of helping to improve the lives of the Palestinian people. They talked at good length about the economic condition and getting in there so we can provide help to strengthen the economy and jobs.
Q: What evidence is there that groups like Hamas and others are less powerful, less cohesive than they were before --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the Palestinians have taken steps that have helped to reduce violence. And there is -- obviously, we want to continue working in that direction and do more. The road map spells out the steps that need to be taken. In phase one, the very first stage, it makes it clear that they need to dismantle the terrorist groups. And that continues to be our position.
Q: One on Liberia. There's a lot of talk here that's sort of over the American people's heads, including our heads, when it comes to "help ECOWAS get in." I mean, what does that mean?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, what we're doing, as I said, positioning the military capabilities so that our forces can support the deployment of an ECOWAS force, once they are ready to go in. And we will support ECOWAS and their immediate mission, which is to reinforce a cease-fire and create conditions for humanitarian assistance. And the President has also made clear the importance of Charles Taylor to leave.
Q: -- provide command and control? Are we going to have them use our ships to unload into Liberia or are we just going to point out where they need to go?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that we'll continue to assess what the United States role is in supporting an ECOWAS force. But for now we want to help them get in there, get that vanguard force in there so that we can get to that cease-fire, so that we can them the humanitarian assistance --
Q: -- threat that if you don't let the force come in and do its job, then we'll come in with them?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know that I look at it that way. I'll just say we'll continue to assess that. And I think our military leaders will continue to assess that, as well.
Q: Does that mean then landing them on the shore, or helping them across the neighboring border? What does it mean?
MR. McCLELLAN: It's help to get them in there. I think the specifics, the Department of Defense will be in better position to address.
Q: How do they get there? They don't just show up --
MR. McCLELLAN: To help them get in there.
Q: -- and say, hi, we're here.
MR. McCLELLAN: And that's why I think you ought to address those specifics there.
Q: I'm going to try one more time on Liberia. It seems like what you guys are trying to do is leave open the possibility that the U.S. will have a different role later by saying all we're going to do is position troops, position ships off the coast. We're going to talk about the support role now, but we haven't given you the President's final determination about what our role is going to be. Is that right?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that until the ECOWAS countries can identify the specific forces that are going to get in there and be deployed in Liberia, we are going to continue to assess our role in supporting that force. But right now, we're positioning so that we can provide that support.
Q: Can I follow on the Middle East? Abbas is in real trouble at home and needs to come back with something. The President had really strong words today about the security needs, his need to tackle terrorism. He also had some pretty strong words on the prisoner issue, which is huge for Abbas. Are you guys worried that he's not going back home with enough?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think that the establishment of the economic develop group, the joint group between the United States and the Palestinians is an important step. And Secretary Snow and Secretary Evans will be going in there to work with them so that we can help with the economic plight of the Palestinian people. The President made it very clear in the lunch that he believes in the hopes and aspirations of the Palestinian people, and that we are committed to doing our part to help. He asked Prime Minister Abbas and others that were with him, what else can we do to help you? And so they had a good conversation about that.
Q: The prisoner issue is one of the foremost issues for Abbas and for the Palestinians, and he seemed to have been undermined a little bit on that subject by the President's very strong words.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Prime Minister Sharon is going to be here. The President is going to continue to talk about some of the issues that have been discussed here with him, as well, and about the importance of Israel, as well as the Palestinians meeting their responsibilities. We're making some progress. They're moving forward. There are discussions that are continuing to be held between the parties, and that's important. It's important to keep the parties talking, as the President talked about earlier -- keep them sitting down and talking about how we can move forward.
There's obviously a road map there. The prisoners issue is not addressed in the road map specifically, but this is something they should continue to talk about. We'll continue to do what we can to help. And the President said that we'll address it on a case-by-case basis.
Q: Scott, on Liberia, I'm a little confused by the President's order today. The Pentagon announced on Monday that they were sending a three-ship amphibious group to off the coast of Liberia, with a certain number of forces on board, and so forth. Is the President's announcement today another group, an additional group?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the military can talk to you about the specific number of troops. The President addressed that a little bit in his remarks earlier today out in the Rose Garden.
Q: Is this a different order from the one on Monday?
MR. McCLELLAN: This was -- this decision was made today.
Q: So is this different from the group --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I don't want to get into specific -- I'm not in the best position to do that. I think the Pentagon is in the better position to talk to you about the specifics about what is already there, and then what else we're doing to position people off the coast.
Q: The President says he ordered troops to go there today. The Pentagon announced on Monday they were sending a group led by the Iwo Jima to go there. Are we sending additional --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, what's happening now is that ECOWAS is beginning to move forward with the deployment of a vanguard force. And so we're going to do -- take the necessary steps to make sure we're in position to support that vanguard force as it goes into Liberia. And so that's where things stand.
Q: Right, but it takes seven to 10 days for them to get there, and what we were told was on Monday the Pentagon had ordered them to go. And I'm just trying to figure out, did the President --
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I think that would be better addressed to the Department of Defense about the specifics.
Q: You can't tell us what it was?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President's decision today about positioning the military capabilities off the coast was made in a meeting earlier this morning.
Q: All right. One other thing, if I could, on a separate issue. In Cuba -- or in Florida, the Brothers to the Rescue have said that they are renouncing their Republican membership and declaring themselves independent because they're upset with the administration's handling of the people who were picked up at sea yesterday. Do you have any comments on --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think we are consistent in our Cuba policy. It has remained the same. The President has been a very strong supporter of freedom and democracy in Cuba, and he will continue to be.
Q: Can you confirm reports that the White House has asked and is trying to persuade former Secretary of State James Baker to take on an administrative role --
MR. McCLELLAN: I saw that report and I've just seen it, so it's just come to my attention. I haven't heard anything to that effect at this point.
Q: Will you check on that and get back to us today?
MR. McCLELLAN: I saw a report that just hit, and I'll look into it.
Q: Thank you very much.
Q: Scott, both Prime Minister Abbas and the President were speaking pretty strongly about the Jewish settlements and about the wall of defense, as you would like. What would the President like to see the Israelis do right now about the settlements and about the wall?
MR. McCLELLAN: One, as I said, and as he said, he has consistently spoken out about the need to end settlements. And we will continue to do that. Those will be issues that will continue to be discussed with both parties. And on the issue of the wall, the President did express his concern about the wall. And he believes it's difficult to build confidence between the two -- between the Palestinians and the Israelis when there is a wall running through the West Bank. And so the President made a commitment that he would bring that up with Prime Minister Sharon and continue to talk about that issue with him. I think what we're doing is talking with the parties, and continuing to work it through those channels. And that's the best way to address it.
Q: The concrete step that they could take, freezing the construction of settlements and the wall?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think we're going to have a meeting next week. The President looks forward to it and we'll continue to discuss these issues. If there's more that comes from those meetings, we'll be in position to talk about it at that time.
Q: And one other question about California, the total recall. What's your stand on that? Could you see Jack Kemp running? (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: You missed earlier, didn't you? No, I think that this is a people -- an issue that the people of California are going to address. And that's where our position is. We're not involved in it at this point.
Q: Scott, in the last couple of days, I've done features on Iraq. The President hasn't mentioned weapons of mass destruction. Why is that?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the President has always spoken out about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. And, obviously, in those speeches I think you're referring to, there were a lot of issues he covered.
Q: But why not weapons of mass destruction?
MR. McCLELLAN: We're confident that we will uncover the full extent of the weapons of mass destruction programs.
Q: Any intelligence agency urged him not to make reference to weapons of mass destruction?
MR. McCLELLAN: No.
Q: Back on Liberia, the Nigerian colonel seems to believe he can be ready to move at the beginning of next week. Is that a time line that we're working on also?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think it's a time line we're working with the Nigerians on. And I think that our military support, you need to address those questions to the Department of Defense. Q You can't give us any idea as to whether --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not sure of the latest. I'm aware of what's been reported, but I'm not sure of the latest there.
Q: And back on the Middle East. As you know, one of Prime Minister Abbas' cabinet members signaled some concern earlier this week, just to follow up on a previous question, about whether or not the Prime Minister can hold his standing, such as it is, in his -- in the territories right now. Is the President concerned that Prime Minister Abbas potentially does face ouster? And what would that do to the peace process?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know about the internal politics there among the Palestinian people, but Prime Minister Abbas is committed to serving the interests of the Palestinian people. And he recognizes the best way to do that is to seek a peaceful solution. And that will help move us forward and help move closer to a Palestinian state. He is someone that is strongly committed to, and shares our commitment to the two states, living side-by-side in peace and security. And so I think that the Palestinian people are beginning to realize some of the important progress we are making. And we need to continue moving down that road.
Q: So the President does not believe that Prime Minister Abbas' job is in trouble?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I'm not going to get into the internal political issues there, but we're continuing to work closely with Prime Minister Abbas, because he's someone committed to a two-state solution.
Q: Scott, back on Liberia. A couple weeks ago when he was here, Kofi Annan said that he and the President had agreed to a broad program under which ECOWAS would form the vanguard, ECOWAS would ensure there was a cease-fire in place, that Charles Taylor would leave, then the United States troops would go ashore, and then it would quickly be handed over to a U.N. operation once conditions permitted. Is that the --
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know if I agree with as specific as what you're saying. They did talk about some of those issues. I was in that meeting, and that issue did certainly come up. And they talked about -- the President talked about the importance of supporting the efforts of ECOWAS and he'll make his commitment to making sure a cease-fire takes hold. But I don't know about all the specifics you mentioned. That sounded a little more specific in terms of commitments than what I recall.
Q: Just wondering if that's more or less -- if there's something -- is there a piece of that juts out?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, look, I don't want to jump ahead of where things are. It's obviously something we'll continue assessing as we move forward. But where we are right now is where the President left it earlier today.
Q: It still is that there wouldn't be troops there as long as Taylor is still there?
MR. McCLELLAN: He's made it very clear that Charles Taylor must leave.
Q: Scott, Monday, President Bush goes to Pittsburgh for the National Urban League Convention. Why the Urban League for a second time and not to a civil rights organization like the NAACP, which just concluded their convention?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, the President is someone that is an inclusive leader and he talks to a variety of groups from across the political spectrum and reaches out to people from all walks of life. And I think that you'll see at the Urban League, the President will talk about the importance -- well, I think he'll continue to talk about winning the war on terrorism, that's always the highest priority, but also talk about another very high priority, which is economic growth and his compassionate conservative agenda, from making sure that our public schools are the best that they can be, that no children are being left behind, to talking about our faith-based initiative. So he'll talk about a number of those initiatives.
Q: So is it true that he's reaching out to the Urban League more so because it's more of a bipartisan base, and the fact that they haven't really been as vocal as other civil rights groups --
MR. McCLELLAN: I look at it that he's pleased to go and speak to the Urban League again. He's spoken to many groups over the last few years. And he's pleased that he was invited to speak at the Urban League and he looks forward to addressing them on Monday in Pittsburgh.
Q: And a follow-up. Will he ever speak -- in this one term, will he ever speak to any civil rights organization? He said when he was then candidate Bush for the Oval Office, civil rights would be the cornerstone of his administration. This was at the NAACP Convention in 1989. He has yet to meet with any civil rights organization --
MR. McCLELLAN: We have taken strong steps on the civil rights agenda, and we have been strongly enforcing the civil rights laws.
Q: The agenda, but not discussing any of the agenda with civil rights organizations.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I don't know -- he talks to leaders all the time --
Q: Civil rights leaders?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- and meets with people all the time on a variety of those issues. But I don't know without -- you used this broad term, civil rights leaders, on how you're defining civil rights --
Q: Kweisi Mfume. I know he doesn't want to deal with Jesse Jackson.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- and he certainly meets with congressional leaders on a regular basis on a variety of different issues. So it's very important to him.
Q: Scott, on Medicare, a few days ago the Congress Budget Office came out with an analysis that both the House and Senate versions would exceed the $400-billion limit set by the President, and also, that in either case, if either was implemented, there would be less Medicare recipients participating in private plans than are currently covered by private employers. Does the White House dispute this analysis?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, I think the CMS actuary has a different analysis showing that there would be more than 40 percent participation in those private plans.
Q: But as you know, legislation is based on CBO analysis. And I guess my question is --
MR. McCLELLAN: And I think that the leaders emphasized their commitment to $400 billion and keeping it at $400 billion, as well.
Q: Well, do you feel the private plan finding will have a chilling effect on the administration's efforts to try to encourage the elderly to participate in private plans?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think we're making some progress in the conference committee. I think the conference committee has indicated that, too, that they're starting to agree on some of the issues. They're going to continue to work over this, as they said, over the month of August. This is too important for our seniors not to get it done as soon as possible. We need to get seniors the prescription drug coverage they've been waiting on. We need to get seniors more choices and better benefits. We need to enable seniors to be able to choose the kind of health care that best meets their individual needs and bring Medicare into the 21st century, modernize it and strengthen it for our seniors. So we're going to continue working with the conference committee to help them resolve differences.
Q: Can I just ask one other question?
MR. McCLELLAN: You may ask one other. It's Friday. I'm being generous. (Laughter.) No briefing for a few days.
Q: As you know, there are 12 million low-income families who are not receiving, who will not be receiving the child credit refunds that are going out today because of legislation that is stalled on the Hill. There are those -- there are certain lawmakers, at least, that are criticizing the President for not applying heavier pressure on House Republicans. And I wondered what the administration's response is to that.
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know how more clear the President can be than he has been, he was, as recently as yesterday, in urging Congress to act and expand the child credit. You did mention today that it is an important day. There are some 25 million checks going out that will get more money back into people's pockets in the form of the child tax credit so that people can begin using that money on goods and services and help to create jobs, that this is -- you're beginning to see the effects of the economic growth and jobs plan, beginning to see those benefits realized by the American people. And I think that that's going to help get our economy growing even faster. This remains a top priority for the President, and he won't be satisfied as long as there are people out there that can't find a job that are still looking for one.
Q: Scott, just a brief follow-up on that. Just on -- yesterday the President did make a speech in Michigan and Pennsylvania, which are two politically key states. If this doesn't happen in Congress, is he going to be -- is he worried at all about the political ramifications if it doesn't go through in those states?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President worries about what is right for the American people. And he believes that this is right for the American people. And so he's going to continue urging Congress to act on it, just as he has been. And we hope that they will.
Q: When he's dispatched Secretary Snow and Secretary Evans and Secretary Chao for their trip next week to Wisconsin and Minnesota, was the Electoral College at all a consideration?
MR. McCLELLAN: These are two states, obviously, that these Secretaries have to look at their schedules, and this enabled them to go out to two states and listen to concerns of real Americans and families and hear their concerns, as well as talk about what we have been doing.
There are still -- just because we just recently passed the jobs and growth plan, doesn't mean we can stop there. The President has proposed a number of other initiatives that will help improve America's economic security. We need to act to continue to expand trade. We need to act on a comprehensive energy plan. We need to continue to act on stopping lawsuit abuse. And the President talked about this -- has been talking about this. There's more that we can do to improve the economic situation. And so the President is going to continue focused on those, as well.
Q: One more on Liberia. The President made a point again today, saying Charles Taylor has to go. If the ECOWAS force goes in and Charles Taylor is still there, does the administration contemplate them playing some role in trying to force him out, and/or would they just let the status quo prevail --
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't want to get into speculation, but the President has made it very clear that he needs to leave. He has said that a number of times, and that position remains the same.
Q: Scott, on the Middle East, can you elaborate a little bit on what the President wants Snow and Evans to accomplish with this economic initiative there? What specifically are they hoping to do --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you need to let them get over into the Middle East and visit with the Palestinians about the ways that we can assist them. This is something that was just announced, and so we need to let them get over there, work with the Palestinians. Secretary Snow was at the lunch, as well, and they will be -- and the President expressed his commitment that they're going to work with them to address these issues and to help improve the economic plight of the Palestinian people.
Let me go to Ben.
Q: A quick question --
Q: Scott --
MR. McCLELLAN: Ben first.
Q: Does the President agree with Tom DeLay's statement that he didn't believe that a Palestinian state could ever occur in the very near future, and what seems to go against the central tenet of the road map that the President has endorsed? And also, did DeLay coordinate this trip to Israel and Palestine that he's going on with the State Department or with any administration --
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know what level of discussion there has been there. I just don't know. But the President remains committed to the road map and remains committed to moving forward as quickly as possible so that we can realize the shared vision of the Palestinians, the Israelis, of the United States and many others of two states living side-by-side in peace and security. So we're going to continue working with the parties to keep them moving forward.
Q: Is it correct to say he and Mr. DeLay may disagree on this issue then?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that both leaders have expressed their views. I think that Congressman DeLay has expressed his concern about terrorist activities. And he's talking with some of the Israelis about that on his trip, from what I understand.
Q: Two questions about yesterday's death of Navy Secretary-designate Colin McMillan. Does the White House know of any reason why Mr. McMillan would want to take his own life?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not going to get into any speculation about that.
Q: Regardless of the cause of it --
MR. McCLELLAN: The President put out a statement earlier today expressing his thoughts and prayers for his family. And our thoughts and prayers are with his family.
Q: Was there any problem that the White House knew about his vetting process? Had anything been disclosed that would have jeopardized his nomination?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that out of respect for his family, I will leave it where I left it.
Q: Scott, two questions.
MR. McCLELLAN: Sarah.
Q: Thank you. Scott, how can the President resolve the problem in the Middle East? The Palestinians say there can be no peace in the Middle East until Israel leaves the settlements. Israel says it won't, until the violence ends. Isn't this a catch-22?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, I missed the -- Israel ending settlements?
Q: The Palestinians say there can be no peace in the Middle East until Israel leaves the settlements. Israel says it won't, until the violence ends.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well we appreciate the steps that both parties have been taking to keep things moving forward. We're going to continue working with them, continue to emphasize our position. The President has made it very clear that security needs to be addressed, on the one hand, that settlements need to be ended. And he also emphasized the importance in today's meeting of doing what we can to help the Palestinian people and improve their condition.
Q: Scott, I have two related questions. Number one, what is the President's position on the existence of Hamas? And number two, in the unclassified --
MR. McCLELLAN: His position is that Hamas is an enemy of peace and that Hamas needs to be dismantled because it is a terrorist organization. That's his position.
Q: Okay, my second question. Yesterday in the report of the joint committee on 9/11, the third recommendation of that committee said, they recommended that the NSC develop a government-wide strategy for combatting terrorism, both at home and abroad, and it should include Hezbollah and Hamas. What, if anything, in these last seven months has the White House done in this respect?
MR. McCLELLAN: What have we done? We've done an awful lot. We're winning the war on terrorism. The President is going after terrorist organizations where they are, not waiting for them to come to our shore before it's too late. We are taking significant steps on the homefront to better secure America through the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, through the terrorists threat integration center, where we're now sharing information and maximizing information sharing among our agencies. So there's an awful lot that we're doing. Those are just a couple of examples.
Q: What specifically regarding Hezbollah and Hamas?
MR. McCLELLAN: They can continue to be terrorist organizations on the terrorist organization list. And we've made it very clear that people need to stop supporting those organizations and that they need to be dismantled.
Q: Does the President think that every Palestinian who fights against Israeli occupation is a terrorist? He almost speaks of Palestinians simultaneously with terrorism. Does he know what it is to fight for his own land? I mean, what do they think the American revolutionaries were?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President believes that people that carry out attacks on innocent civilians are terrorists, indeed.
Q: The Israelis killed a four-year-old boy today.
MR. McCLELLAN: People that jump on -- and that's a horrible tragedy any time an innocent child's life is lost. That's a terrible tragedy. And certainly it's a tragedy for the family, and our thoughts are with his family, as well.
Q: He understands why Palestinians fight for their own land, doesn't he?
MR. McCLELLAN: He understand that the Palestinian people would like to have a peaceful and secure state where they can realize their full potential. And that's why he expressed his commitment to helping to improve the lives of the Palestinian people, and reemphasized that today. And we've always been committed to that.
Q: So he thinks that terrorism should be quelled on both sides, right?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the terrorist acts on innocent civilians need to stop, and everybody needs -- all parties have a responsibility to do their part. You're making a very broad characterization there. We've always said that Israel has the right to defend itself.
Q: To defend itself in occupied land?
MR. McCLELLAN: Russell.
Q: Scott, two things. There was a report in The Washington Post this week that a local newspaper in Baghdad was shut down and its manager was arrested because of an article that the newspaper published. U.S. officials felt that the article was an incitement to violence and a threat to human rights in Iraq. And according to the paper, U.S. military forces broke down the front door, ransacked the office and detained the newspaper's manager. Do you believe that that kind of action would be constitutional under our 1st Amendment?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's making the assumption that certain things are the way that they were described. I don't know the specifics of that matter. I think that's a matter better addressed to the coalition provisional authority or our military people over in the region.
Q: Well, if the report is accurate, that the reason this was done was because of an article published in the newspaper --
MR. McCLELLAN: That's a nice try to get me to comment on something I just said --
Q: This was the article --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- to get me say something which I just said I don't know enough about the specifics to address that. But obviously, security and stabilization of Iraq is a high priority right now. We're making good progress on that front. There continue to be remnants of the former regime, as well as foreign terrorists that are going to continue to target success. We are moving forward on the security side. We're moving forward on prosperity for the Iraqi people, getting the economy going. We're also moving forward on the democratic front. We're beginning to see the governing council take steps toward democracy, and they're moving forward to begin to start the constitutional process, as well. These are important steps.
Q: In an article in Roll Call yesterday titled, FDA's Lobbying Question, reports -- I understand your brother is head of the FDA -- it reports that --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not lobbying him, though.
Q: It reports that the FDA, under your brother, has hooked up with the pharmaceutical industry to defeat this bill that would allow for importing drugs from Canada. And it --
MR. McCLELLAN: In this case, I support my brother. (Laughter.) But let me point out, that's a public health issue, that there are a lot of concerns that we can't verify the safety of these drugs that are coming back in. And I think the FDA Commissioner and the Secretary of Health and Human Services are doing their job, which is to ensure the safety and ensure that these drugs are safe for the American people. And so that's a very important concern.
Q: The article raises the question of whether it's unseemly for a federal regulatory agency to hook up with a major industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and jointly lobby Congress.
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know that I agree with that characterization. We're doing this because of the reason I just stated. This is a public safety issue, public health issue. And we're concerned about the safety of the reimportation of these drugs, and that we can't ensure the safety of those drugs coming back in. And so that's why we've taken the position that we took.
Q: In relation to Liberia, how did the structural command will work if the American troops are essentially giving support to the ECOWAS troops?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, our American troops always remain under American command. In this instance, you need to talk to the Pentagon about specifics about that. As the President said earlier today, when he was asked, the Pentagon will have more details on the specifics about how our support efforts are carried out.
Q: In response to a question this morning addressed earlier, you said the recall in California was a matter that you want to leave up to the people of California. Does that mean that the President won't campaign in the state and doesn't want a Republican governor to replace Governor Davis?
MR. McCLELLAN: That means right now that it's -- one, I don't know a list of candidates that have filed at this point. I'm sure that there will be a number of candidates that will seek to be elected, if they move in that direction. But this is just something for the people of California to decide at this point. We're not involved in it. If anything changes, we'd always update you at that point. But it's a matter for the people of California.
Q: There was another terrorist activity in Kashmir this week and a number of civilians were targeted by terrorists there, especially -- so what's happening now that we have gone through a lot on talks on Kashmir dialogue --
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know the latest update on the situation there. I mean, obviously we continue to want to -- continue to work to make sure that tensions are reduced in the region. I think that there has been some good signs over the last few months. But I just don't know the latest with the situation there.
Q: Actually, right now they are targeting the Hindu worshipers, because there's a big Hindu temple in that area of Jammu. And now they are saying that if we target those worshipers, then they will get into national attention and the Bush administration will get involved like in the Middle East.
MR. McCLELLAN: I just don't have any more on it at this point.
Thanks. Have a good weekend.
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