White House Briefing, September 5, 2003


Friday September 5, 2003

Office of the Press Secretary
September 5, 2003


The James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
9:50 A.M. EDT

MR. McCLELLAN: Week ahead at the end. The President had his usual briefings. He has taped his radio address. And at 1:15 p.m. will depart the White House to go to Indianapolis, where the President at 2:20 p.m. will meet with some small business owners and families that -- some families that will be benefiting from the recently passed Child Tax Credit. And then the President this evening makes remarks at a Bush-Cheney reception in Indianapolis, and returns -- goes to Camp David this evening upon return.

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

Q: The President seems to be making a lot of U-turns in his foreign policy. Is he beginning to doubt his own rigidity? I mean Korea, the Iraq and so forth? He seems to be --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I disagree with the whole premise -- I disagree with the premise of what you said.

Q: Isn't he getting more flexible? Is he getting different advice?

MR. McCLELLAN: Do you have a specific question?

Q: Different advisors?

MR. McCLELLAN: Do you have a specific question within that?

Q: Pardon me?

MR. McCLELLAN: Because I disagree with the premise of your question.

Q: Okay, well, he is changing his mind. He is softening his approach, isn't he, in terms of Iraq?

MR. McCLELLAN: In what way?

Q: Making concessions to the U.N., more power and so forth?

MR. McCLELLAN: We have always welcomed the participation of the international community. And we've always --

Q: Yes, but you never gave them any authority --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- talked about the importance of encouraging even broader international participation in Iraq. So that's something we've discussed.

Q: No, don't go on. I have another question on that.

MR. McCLELLAN: Okay, go ahead.

Q: Is the President willing to give up more power now to bring France and Germany and so forth into the realm?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm glad you brought that up. We have all along talked about the importance of shifting authority to the Iraqi people as quickly as they are ready to assume more and more responsibility. That's a shared goal that we have with other nations, as well. And that's something that the coalition provisional authority is focused on.

Let me remind you that there is a governing council of Iraqis that was established. That council earlier this week appointed ministers to oversee certain areas within Iraq. And so that -- the governing council was an important step toward a sovereign, free and democratic Iraq. And the appointment of the ministers is another important step forward in that process.

They are also moving forward on the political side to establish a constitutional process. So there are a number of important steps where the Iraqis are taking more and more responsibility. And as they do that, we can shift more and more responsibility to the Iraqis.

Q: So are you able to convince France and Germany that these are positive steps that will lead to what everyone is asking for?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, as you are aware, we are consulting with all the members of the Security Council. The discussions have been positive. We have had good discussions. Secretary Powell has talked about this. Some of those responses have been stated publicly and privately. Some of those have been stated privately. But we have a shared goal of turning more and more authority over to the Iraqi people as quickly as we can, and as quickly as they are ready to assume more and more responsibility. That's what we are focused on doing. And that's what the focus of the proposed language in the resolution reaffirms.

Q: Could you turn quickly to unemployment? With the figures going down, to show that jobs are literally disappearing, another rap for jobs?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I think --

Q: Ninety-three thousand --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q: Ninety-three Thousand.

MR. McCLELLAN: Right. No, no, I understand. I think today's numbers are a reminder of the need to act on the additional steps the President has called upon Congress to pass. The economy is growing. But the President is not satisfied because there are people who want to work but cannot find a job. We need to act, continue to act to get the economy growing even faster so that we can have an environment that encourages job creation. And that's what -- the President has been talking about this.

We acted to get the economy out of a recession. And as you heard the President talk about yesterday, typically, coming out of a recession, that jobs are usually the last to catch up. And the economy is continuing to pick up some steam and move in the right direction. But there is more that we need to do to get it growing even faster.

Q: Two different subjects, but back to the U.N. Are you disappointed by the response by Chirac and Schroeder? Because Secretary Powell yesterday seemed to indicate he didn't quite understand what they were talking because he pointed out, we are moving as fast as we can to turn authority over to the Iraqis. That was Chirac's --

MR. McCLELLAN: And that's what I just pointed out as well.

Q: Right, but are you --

MR. McCLELLAN: That that's always been a priority for us. And that is reaffirmed in the language that's been proposed for the resolution.

Q: Right. Then, therefore, are you disappointed that Chirac and Schroeder --

MR. McCLELLAN: There's a consultative process that happens. And as I said there have been a number of positive discussions, a number of nations have indicated that publicly. Some others have indicated privately their receptiveness to what we are working towards.

Q: You're not discouraged, Scott?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q: You're not discouraged?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think the talks are going in a positive direction. That's what --

Q: That's your final --

MR. McCLELLAN: That's what I've described. This is a consultative process. We're going to continue to talk to all the members of the Security Council, including France and including Germany. We've had some discussions with them, Secretary Powell has, and we will continue to have those discussions.

Q: When Gerhard Schroeder says that the U.N. must take full charge of the political process in Iraq, is that a non-starter for this administration?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think we've made our views clear. One, you need to talk to him about what he means by that, by his own remarks. But we've made it very clear that we have a shared goal here. This is about the Iraqi people and this is about the future of the Iraqi people.

And all of us have a stake in what is going on in Iraq because a peaceful and free Iraq is going to serve as an example for the rest of the Middle East and help make the world a safer place. So we're all -- this is -- Iraq is now a central part in the war on terrorism. And the world has a stake in what is going on; the world has a stake in helping the Iraqi people realize a better future, realize a free and democratic society. The world has a stake in confronting the terrorists that have come into Iraq.

Q: Why is it a war on terrorists?

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me keep going around. I'll come back to you, if I can at the end. Dana?

Q: My second part of my question --

MR. McCLELLAN: Dana, do you want to yield?

Q: Go ahead.

Q: When we get done with the U.N., I have a question on a separate subject.

MR. McCLELLAN: Okay, I'll see if I can get back to you.

Q: Yes.

Q: All right, all right, on the jobless number. He said that the jobless rate is always the last to catch up. But not only is it not catching up, it's getting worse. What do you ascribe to that? I mean, this is something that politically is not the greatest thing for --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, remember what we went through. I won't go back through it at length here, but we went through a recession. We were attacked on September 11th. We had the corporate scandals. We are at war on terrorism. And we are going to always make sure that we are doing everything we can to address those highest of priorities, winning the war on terrorism and getting the economy growing even faster. But we acted to get the economy growing, took a number of steps, and the economy is growing. But again, we want to see it grow even faster.

And you also have to keep in mind that what usually happens after recessions, that jobs are one of the last things to catch up. And you also have high productivity now. High productivity is another reason employment is lagging. High productivity, while it means better paying jobs and better living standards, it also means fewer people to do certain jobs. And it is important that we act to get our economy growing even faster, to catch up with that productivity. And that is why we need to continue to act on the President's priorities.

Q: What specifically?

MR. McCLELLAN: And what he outlined on -- well, the six steps he outlined

Q: What specifically?

MR. McCLELLAN: The six steps yesterday, what he outlined yesterday. We need to act on a comprehensive energy plan to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy and to have a modern electricity delivery system. We need to act to make health care more affordable. We need to act on lawsuit reform. We need to act on expanding -- continuing to expand trade for American products and American producers. We need to act on making the tax cuts permanent, to bring more certainty there, so people can plan. So that's what, specifically.

Q: To follow on Dana's question, several economists, prominent Wall Street economists said this morning they are very concerned about this number, because they had factored in the stimulus -- the tax cuts going into effect earlier this summer and the expectation that that would spur job creation and expansion by companies, both in hiring and purchasing. It's not happening, and they think that, essentially, the economy has already absorbed that stimulus, and that the prospect on job losses in future months paints a pretty bleak picture. Does the President share those concerns?

MR. McCLELLAN: Keep in mind -- I've already addressed today's numbers, and the importance of how that underscores the need to act on some of the additional proposals.

Q: Right, but --

MR. McCLELLAN: But there are a number of positive signs in our economy. There are a number of promising signs in our economy. But there is more we need to do to get the economy growing even faster. The President is not satisfied. That's why the President is -- has been acting and is continuing to lead, to urge further action, so that we can address exactly what you're bringing up.

; Q Scott, do these signs also portend the possibility of deflation?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry? We're acting to -- on what I just said.

Q: But isn't that still concern, though? Isn't the Fed concerned about deflation, given all these --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you can talk to the Fed about what their concerns are about.

Q: Scott, how do you respond to some of the stinging criticism last night in the Democratic debate, particularly -- for instance, Representative Gephardt calling the President a miserable President?

MR. McCLELLAN: I watched some of the confrontation on TV last night, and I was impressed by the way the Redskins pulled it out. (Laughter.)

Q: Seriously, Scott --

MR. McCLELLAN: There is a Democratic primary going on. We'll let them debate those issues among themselves.

Q: Did the President watch the debate?

MR. McCLELLAN: Not that I'm aware of.

Q: Back on the U.N. The French, the Germans, the Russians -- among others -- did not accept, initially, six months ago, the idea that weapons of mass destruction constitute a reason to go into Iraq. And the weapons have not been shown. They did not accept the President's contention that it was essential for a part of the war on terror. What is the case now that they should now invest blood and treasure in Iraq --

MR. McCLELLAN: Exactly what I was talking about, I think in response to Mark a short time ago, that we all have a stake in helping the Iraqi people build a better future, and helping the Iraqi people realize a sovereign, free and democratic country. We all have a stake in a free and democratic Iraq -- in achieving a free and democratic Iraq because it will serve as an example to the Middle East. And it will help bring about a safer world.

So we -- all of us have a stake. Regardless of where we stood before the battle of Iraq, we can all now work together. And a number of countries are already participating and helping that effort to help the Iraqi people build a better future. We've already pointed out more than 30 countries are participating in our efforts. We welcome that participation. We also want to continue talking with other countries to encourage them to participate because of the reasons outlined in response to Mark's question.

Q: And can I just follow up by saying it's obviously a difficult environment to ask another government to send troops, or to invest money in Iraq right now. What is the incentive for these countries to do so, to buy into a multinational operation there now?

MR. McCLELLAN: What is the incentive?

Q: What is the incentive for a France or a Germany or a Russia?

MR. McCLELLAN: The exact same -- I mean it's still the same thing I just said. This is about the Iraqi people and helping the Iraqi people realize a better future. This is about helping bring about a free and democratic Iraq. Iraq is central to winning the war on terrorism. And when we achieve a free, secure and democratic Iraq, that's going to serve as an example for the Middle East. That's going us to help address some of these issues. We are --

Q: President Bush, Sr. is traveling to Russia next week, at least reports from Moscow say so. Is he carrying any messages from the White House?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know the former President's schedule. You should talk to his office if you have questions about his schedule or about what he'll be doing.

Q: Also, the Kremlin has announced the dates, at least, for the Putin visit. How soon will you be making any announcements on that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Stay tuned. Philippe.

Q: Jean-Louis.

MR. McCLELLAN: I mean, Jean-Louis, I'm sorry.

Q: That's okay. Back to the U.N. resolution. You said some answers were private, others were public. Did the French or the Germans say something privately different than what they said publicly?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, there is a consultative process going on, and I'll let countries speak for themselves about what they have to say.

Q: Was there any conversation between President Bush and Chirac or Schroeder over the last 48 hours?

MR. McCLELLAN: No. Okay, I've got to go, so -- do we have any other issues, real quick?

Q: Yes, we have one other, which you didn't respond to, which involves Helen's question. Was the senior State Department official yesterday signaling any change whatsoever --

MR. McCLELLAN: Thank you for bringing that up.

Q: -- in U.S. policy toward North Korea? Any flexible --

MR. McCLELLAN: Helen talked about a broader question, and now we're getting to the -- that's why I said about the specific -- if you have a specific question, let's address that.

Q: You've got to respond.

MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, what's your question?

Q: I was specific. You know what I was asking.

Q: Is there new flexibility? Is there any adjustment in policy, whatsoever? Is there any difference between the situation a week-and-a-half ago and now?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think it's important to focus on what was accomplished in the recent talks that took place, the multilateral talks. The five nations, in a multilateral forum -- when I'm referring to the five nations, I'm referring to China, Russia, South Korea, Japan and the United States -- the five nations made it very clear to North Korea what it needs to do to become part of the international community and realize the benefits of the international community.

The five nations made it very clear that North Korea must verifiably and irreversibly end its nuclear weapons program. So there is a strong message going to North Korea. North Korea is learning that the international community is not going to reward bad behavior. They must change their behavior and begin to take concrete steps to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.

Q: I'm sorry.

Q: Yes, that didn't really answer the question.

Q: My question -- has there been any adjustment in policy, was the official signaling any new flexibility?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, the official was talking about -- let me go back to what the President said, back in January, 2003, in a pool spray in the Oval with the President of Poland. The President said -- and he said:

"I've instructed our Secretary of State to approach North Korea about a bold initiative, an initiative which would talk about energy and food, because we care deeply about the suffering of the North Korean people. And then the North Koreans made a decision. I view this as an opportunity to bind together nations in the neighborhood and around the world to make it clear to the North Koreans that we expect this issue to be resolved peacefully and we expect them to disarm. We expect them not to develop nuclear weapons, and if they so choose to do so -- their choice -- then I will reconsider whether or not we will start the bold initiative that I talked to Secretary Powell about. People say, well, are you willing to talk to North Korea? Of course we are. But what this nation won't do is be blackmailed. And what this nation will do is use this as an opportunity to bring the Chinese and the Russians and South Koreans and the Japanese to the table to solve this problem peacefully."

So we are moving forward on a multilateral approach, exactly what we've spelled out to address this. And nothing can happen until North Korea changes its behavior and begins to take concrete steps to dismantle its nuclear weapons program. North Korea must end, verifiably and irreversibly, its nuclear weapons program.

Q: Are we going to discuss security issues --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you're asking a question that, again, that North Korea must change its behavior. That's the message. That's why I referred back to the recent talks. North Korea must change its behavior and take concrete steps to end its nuclear weapons program.

Q: And what was the answer?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's what the message that was sent by the five nations to North Korea. And so that's where things are.

Q: His concrete steps will be answered by U.S. concrete steps, is what you're telling us.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think the five nations have made it very clear that we are always willing to talk about what is possible if North Korea changes its behavior. We are ready -- so I think that's what --

Q: That statement --

MR. McCLELLAN: That's we've talked about all along.

Q: But that statement you just read --

MR. McCLELLAN: But now we have five nations sending that very clear message to the North Koreans.

Q: China has also sent a message to the U.S., that it had better soften its stand.

MR. McCLELLAN: You might want to ask China about some of those comments.

Q: No, you don't have to ask China.

MR. McCLELLAN: China is part -- China, South Korea, Japan, Russia, the United States, have all made it very clear, the importance of a non-nuclear peninsula, and made it very clear --

Q: And they've made it clear to the U.S., he has to soften --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- that North Korea needs to end its nuclear weapons program in a verifiable and irreversible way.

And with that, I've really got to go. I'm late for a meeting already.

Q: Week ahead.

MR. McCLELLAN: Oh -- now I'm even going to be later.

Q: On the record.

MR. McCLELLAN: I said, shoot. Wednesday, September 10th, 2003, the President will meet with the Prime Minister of Kuwait in the Oval Office. Then the President will travel to the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, to make remarks on Homeland Security.

Thursday, September 11th, the President will attend a service of prayer -- I mentioned some of this yesterday -- a service of prayer and remembrance at St. John's Episcopal Church. Then he will participate in a moment of silence on the South Lawn. Then he will travel to Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital to visit with some of our troops that have been wounded in the war on terrorism.

Friday, September 12th, the President will travel to Georgia to make remarks at Fort Stewart. Then he will travel to Jackson, Mississippi to attend a Barbour For Governor luncheon. And then the President will travel to Houston, Texas, to make remarks celebrating the anniversary of the Power Center. And then the President will go to Camp David for the weekend.

And I also want to give you an update on remaining campaign events for the month. You've got today in Indianapolis. And we mentioned the two next -- early next week -- Nashville, Tennessee, on September 8th; Jacksonville, Florida, September 9th; Fort Lauderdale, September 9th; Philadelphia, September 15th; Chicago September 30th and Cincinnati September 30th.

Q: What's he doing Monday and Tuesday?

MR. McCLELLAN: And everybody have a good weekend.

Q: Monday and Tuesday travel?

Q: Radio address?

MR. McCLELLAN: I actually did that yesterday.

Q: Scott, what's the topic of the radio address?

MR. McCLELLAN: Education.

END 10:12 A.M. EDT


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