White House Daily Briefing, September 4, 2003


Thursday September 4, 2003

Office of the Press Secretary
(Kansas City, Missouri)

September 4, 2003


Aboard Air Force One
En route Kansas City, Missouri

11:03 A.M. EDT

MR. McCLELLAN: Good morning. The President, before departing, had his usual briefings this morning. And he also participated in the Oval Office in a signing ceremony for the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003.

QUESTION: Scott, I can't hear you. I can't hear you at all. Speak up a little louder.

MR. McCLELLAN: This legislation -- and we'll have a photo release from the Oval Office on this -- this legislation will help prevent and -- will help prevent prison rape and punish those who commit it. It also creates a national commission that will look into this serious problem, that also poses a real health risk, and make some recommendations to address it.

We are on our way to Kansas City, where the President will --

Q: He'll sign this? I'm sorry.

MR. McCLELLAN: He signed the legislation this morning.

Q: The prison what?

MR. McCLELLAN: The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003. Then in Kansas City, the President will be making remarks on the economy. The President looks forward to going to Kansas City. I expect he will talk about how our economy is moving in the right direction because of the action that we have taken. There are a number of positive economic signs, but the President is not satisfied. And the President will emphasize how now is the time to build upon these steps we've already taken, so that we can sustain and expand economic growth to create more jobs for Americans.

The President will outline -- and we'll have this in a fact sheet for you here momentarily -- the President will outline his six point plan for strengthening our growing economy and encouraging job creation. This includes initiatives for, one, making health care more affordable and predictable; two, preventing frivolous and abusive lawsuits; three, ensuring an affordable and reliable energy supply; four, streamlining regulations and reporting requirements; five, expanding trade to open markets for American products and producers; and, six, making permanent key elements of the tax relief that the President advocated and signed into law.

As you all are aware, some of those provisions are set to expire in the next few years, and the President believes it's important to make those tax cuts permanent.

Q: Are any of these new -- none of these are new initiatives, are they?

MR. McCLELLAN: This is what he's been talking about and he wants to make it very clear the action that we need to take to build upon what we have already done to create more jobs.

Then this afternoon, when we return to the White House, the President will participate in an interview with Ron Insana from CNBC, to talk about the economy. And that is his schedule for the day. And if you'll remind me, I've got a couple of announcements on next week, at the end -- I'll do that at the end.

Q: When will that be broadcast, that interview? Or how are we going to --

MR. McCLELLAN: I think the full interview is set to be broadcast tomorrow, Friday, on CNBC, tomorrow afternoon. But I think parts of it will be on the news and Today Show and elsewhere.

Q: Does he have plans for the football game tonight, or is he going to be watching the Democratic debate?

MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't asked him if he's going to watch any of the football game, the kick off game.

Q: Does the President feel as though he's having a difficult time getting his economic message out, with all the critics out there saying this is a jobless recovery and all that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Keep in mind that job creation is usually a lagging economic indicator. The economy, as I said, is moving in the right direction. There are a number of positive signs out there, from productivity and output being up, to consumer spending rising, to low inflation rates, to housing starts being up.

But the President is not satisfied. There is more that we need to do. And the recent GDP numbers continue to show that the economy continues to grow, pick up and grow faster; but there is more that we need to do and more that we need to act on. And the President will not be satisfied as long as people who are looking for work cannot find a job. So we are acting -- and we have acted, and we are continuing to act, and he will talk about this more in his remarks.

Q: Scott, what is specifically new about all of these items in the six point plan? He's talked about all of these over the past two and a half years, what is exactly new about any of these others?

MR. McCLELLAN: Congress has not acted on these important priorities that will help strengthen our economy even more, which will lead to more job creation. And so Congress needs to act on these high priorities. The economy has always been one of the President's highest priorities, and he will not be satisfied as long as there are people out there looking for work that cannot find a job.

Q: Now, if Congress were to act, for example, on making the tax cuts permanent, how quickly might citizens actually see an impact? Economists might say, these are things that happen over the long-term, you're not going to see immediate relief.

MR. McCLELLAN: The relief that we just recently passed is beginning to be realized, and that's having an impact. That's why I said that the economy -- we went through some challenging times, but because of the action that we took, the economy is growing. But we want to see it grow faster. And that's why it's important to take additional steps. The tax relief that we recently passed is beginning to be realized in people's pocketbooks and their paychecks that they take home, in the form of the child tax credits that recently went out. So people are seeing more money and that's -- and you're seeing consumer spending increase.

Q: Are you -- is the President troubled by the Democratic attacks on his stewardship of the economy?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's all part of the political season. The President is focused on the highest priorities for the American people, and that's winning the war on terrorism and creating jobs. And that's what he's going to continue to do. He's focused on acting.

The President is acting and leading, he will let others worry about the politics. The President is focused on doing what's right for the American people and acting to improve the economic security of the American people. We have acted and he will continue to act, as long as people are looking for work.

Q: When he met with his economic team in Crawford, some members of the team said that there had been some discussion about programs to target either specific sectors of the economy, manufacturing, for instance, or certain states that have been unduly hit by the recession. Have those ideas gone away, or is there a reason why in this push --

MR. McCLELLAN: Which ideas are you referring to? He talked on Monday in Ohio at the Labor Day event about a lot of the action that we're taking. The best way that we can help states that have been hard hit -- Kansas City is certainly one of them, particularly in their manufacturing sector -- is to do all we can to get our economy growing even faster. And that's why we have acted, and that's why the President is continuing to urge Congress to act on these other areas, so that we can build upon the steps that we have taken and create more jobs.

Q: Scott, there are estimates in the papers today of how much it's going to cost for reconstruction and to keep the military in Iraq, anywhere from $60 to $80 billion. Are those figures in the ballpark?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President has made it very clear that we will provide the necessary resources to secure the peace and freedom in Iraq, and that we will work very closely with Congress to do that. We are still assessing what the exact needs are, and when we have those numbers, then we will work with Congress to get that passed quickly.

Q: The $60 to $80 billion figure is where the --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not going to get into speculation, because we are still assessing what the needs are, what the exact needs are. We have been listening to and working with Ambassador Bremer. We have been working with and listening to Secretary Rumsfeld and our commanders in the field. They are the ones who are in the best position to assess what the needs are. We also have to continue to increase international participation in our efforts. And when we have a good sense of what the exact needs are, we will be ready to move forward with Congress, as quickly as possible.

Q: When is as soon as -- when will you put forward, when will the President put forward a dollar figure? And does this damage the President's case, to have members of Congress under a mistaken impression now that $60 to $70 billion is what you're asking?

MR. McCLELLAN: We will move forward, as soon as we have determined what those exact needs are. There are a lot of -- I've talked before about how there are always a lot of variables involved here. And you need to have a precise estimate of those costs before moving forward. So that's what we'll do. What was the second part of your question?

Q: Members of Congress are mistaken when they think -- I'm sorry to shout -- are members of Congress mistaken, and does this hurt your case, by putting out --

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't want to get into speculation about reports in the news. We have -- the President had some good conversations yesterday with members of Congress, and let them know that we're continuing to assess what the exact needs are, but that we will make sure that the necessary resources are provided to secure the peace in Iraq.

Q: What will the President do on September 11th?

MR. McCLELLAN: Any other questions?

Q: Did any figures come up yesterday in his discussion with members of Congress? Did they review any of these possible --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, they talked generally about the importance of making sure that the necessary resources are provided to our efforts in Iraq, and that they were ready to move quickly when we know what those exact needs are.

Q: Are we making any headway at the U.N.?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, yes, Secretary Powell indicated that he's had some positive discussions. We continue to be in consultations with members of the Security Council to move forward on a new resolution. And so that consultation continues at this point. Secretary Powell indicated that we will be sharing some proposed language with members of the Security Council over these next couple of days, and so that's where things are.

Q: Is there a timeline for getting some sort of resolution before the G8 reconvenes?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I don't want to put an artificial timeline on it. Secretary Powell talked a little bit about the process that happens at the Security Council -- you all are well aware of it. And we want to listen to or get some feedback from other members of the Security Council before moving forward. But we will move as quickly as we can.

Q: Scott, is the President concerned about the apparent struggle between Yasser Arafat and Abbas over in Palestinian --

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I think that that's getting into internal matters over there, and those are best addressed by the Palestinians. I will point out the importance of all parties working together to meet their obligations under the road map. Prime Minister Abbas has -- is someone who has shown a commitment to the two-state vision, and helping to -- helping the Palestinian people to realize their aspirations of a Palestinian state. And we are continuing to work with the parties in the region on moving forward on the road map. And that's what our focus is. But I'm not going to get into internal --

Q: Some have said that the White House's refusal to, "make Arafat a part of the equation," is hurting the effort there.

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, we're working with those who are committed to advancing the road map. And Prime Minister Abbas, Prime Minister Sharon are committed to working on -- or moving forward on the road map. Yasser Arafat has not played a helpful role in moving forward on the road map. What our focus is is to continue working with the parties so that they meet the obligations. At the top of that list is the dismantlement of terrorist organizations. And it's important for there to be a unified security structure under Prime Minister Abbas' leadership.

Q: -- take a vote of confidence for Mr. Abbas?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q: Is the vote of confidence for Mr. Abbas?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's who we have been working with, and we will continue to work with, as we move forward on the road map. We've made some progress. It has been slow, but it's progress, nonetheless, and we are committed to continuing to work with the parties.

Q: How much room does the President see for maneuvering on this draft resolution? In 1440 there was a lot of debate and a lot of different work once the U.S. put forward a draft. In the second resolution, it was written in such a way that there wasn't.

MR. McCLELLAN: Resolution 1483 we moved forward on relatively quickly. We're going to consult with the other members about the proposed language and get their proposed input. We hope that we will be able to move quickly. This is about encouraging even broader international participation in Iraq. There is already broad international participation in Iraq. A number of countries -- some 30 -- more than 30 countries are already participating in our efforts in Iraq. A number of others have committed to help. And then we've been in discussions with others.

And this is part of our efforts to do what the President has said all along, to help encourage broader international participation. We welcome international participation. The President made it very clear back in July, I believe, with Prime Minister Berlusconi, the importance of what we are trying to achieve in Iraq. Iraq is critical to winning the war on terrorism, and a peaceful and free Iraq will serve as an example for the rest of the Middle East. Everybody has a stake in helping the Iraqi people build a secure, free and democratic future.

Q: And how much were the concerns by the uniformed military command part of the President's thinking on wanting to encourage this broader participation?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, what was --

Q: The concerns by uniformed leadership at the Pentagon?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we always are looking to our leaders in the field, our commanders in the field, to determine what resources are necessary. And so we rely on our commanders in the field to make those judgments. We rely on Ambassador Bremer to make judgments about what resources are needed. They're the ones who are in the best position to make those decisions.

All right, let me give you a current update on September 11th activities. September 11th is a somber day for remembrance, reflection, and prayer. We will always remember and honor the victims of the horrific and brutal attacks of September 11th, 2001, and we will always ask for comfort for their loved ones. This is also a time to reaffirm our commitment and resolve to winning the war on terrorism.

The President will be participating in next -- well, first of all, next Wednesday evening, the President will participate in a dinner and screening of "Twin Towers," which is the Academy Award winning documentary about the September 11th attacks in New York. And that's Wednesday evening.

Q: Where is that?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's at the White House, yes. He will have some special guests that will be invited to that. We'll get you more information as we can on that. That's on the 10th.

Then on Thursday, September 11th, the President will participate in a service of prayer and remembrance at St. John's, along with Mrs. Bush. Following that, the President will participate in a moment of silence on the South Lawn of the White House, with Mrs. Bush and White House staff and other administration employees.

Q: Is that set for the exact time that the first plane hit?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, 8:46 a.m. And then that afternoon, the President will visit Walter Reed Hospital to visit with some of our brave troops who have been wounded in our ongoing war on terrorism. That's the President's schedule. We'll update you if there are any changes to it.

The Vice President will attend a morning ceremony at the World Trade Center in New York City. Secretary Rumsfeld will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, and then he will attend a flag presentation and stained-glass window dedication ceremony at the Pentagon Chapel. And then Secretary Norton will participate in a ceremony that will also mark -- a ceremony in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, that will also mark the appointment of the advisory board on a U.N. Park Service Memorial to Flight 93.

And then we will also be issuing -- I believe later today -- two presidential proclamations. One will be to designate September 11th, 2003 as a national day of prayer and remembrance; and the other will be a proclamation that proclaims September 11th, 2003 as Patriot Day. And in that proclamation the President will call upon the people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities, including remembrance services and candlelight vigils. He'll also call upon the governors of the United States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, as well as other appropriate officials, to direct that the flag be flown at half-staff on Patriot Day. And he will also call upon Americans to display the flag at half-staff from their homes on that day, and to observe a moment of silence beginning at 8:46 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, to honor the innocent victims who lost their lives as a result of these attacks.

I also have one other update on the schedule for next week. On Monday afternoon, the President will travel to Nashville, Tennessee, where he will make remarks on education. After that he will attend a Bush-Cheney 2004 reception. He then returns to Washington, D.C. Monday night.

On Tuesday morning the President will travel to Jacksonville, Florida, where he will attend a Bush-Cheney 2004 lunch. Following that luncheon, he will make remarks on education. The President will then travel to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, where he will attend a Bush-Cheney 2004 reception, before returning to Washington later that day.

Q: -- campaign trips?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's Monday and Tuesday.

Q: Will the Vice President have a pool at all with him to New York?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'd talk to his office about that.

* * *

Q: What's your reaction to Miguel Estrada's resignation?

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me read a statement by the President regarding Miguel Estrada:

It is with regret that at the request of Miguel Estrada, I, today, withdraw his nomination to the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. I understand and respect his decision and wish Mr. Estrada and his family the best.

Mr. Estrada received disgraceful treatment at the hands of 45 United States senators during the more than two years his nomination was pending. Despite his superb qualifications and a wide bipartisan support for his nomination, these Democrat senators repeatedly blocked an up or down vote that would have led to Mr. Estrada's confirmation. The treatment of this fine man is an unfortunate chapter in the Senate's history.

And we will get this out to you all momentarily.

Q: How did he inform the President --

MR. McCLELLAN: Sent a letter to the President asking that his name be withdrawn.

Q: Yesterday, today?

MR. McCLELLAN: The letter is dated September 4th. That's today.

Q: Did he cite any reason, such as the length of time he's been in limbo?

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me see --

Q: Are you going to put this letter out?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, let me see what we can do on that letter, and get back to you.

Q: Thank you.

END 11:28 A.M. EDT


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