White House Daily Briefing, September 26, 2003


Friday  September 26, 2003

Office of the Press Secretary
September 26, 2003


-- President's daily schedule
-- Iraq
- reconstruction costs
- war on terror
- Zinni interview
- Russia's relationship with
- donors conference
- troop commitments
- drafting constitution
-- Economy
-- Russia
-- RU-486
-- Middle East
-- Do Not Call legislation

Office of the Press Secretary
September 26, 2003


The James S. Brady Briefing Room

12:36 P.M. EDT

MR. McCLELLAN: Good Friday afternoon. It looks like Friday here, a few seats missing.

A couple of things I'd like readout first. The President met with President Duarte of Paraguay earlier today. The two leaders discussed a range of issues relating to our bilateral relationship. The President praised President Duarte's strong leadership and his efforts to reform the democratic and economic institutions in Paraguay. They also discussed our close cooperation in the war on terrorism, Paraguay is a strong ally.

Later today, the President looks forward to welcoming President Putin to Camp David. The President believes this is an opportunity to continue to focus on ways to broaden cooperation between the United States and Russia, as we work in partnership to address shared challenges. The two leaders tomorrow -- this evening and tomorrow will discuss a range of bilateral and international issues, including Iran, combatting terrorism, preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction, the greater Middle East and Iraq reconstruction.

And with that, I'll go right into questions.

QUESTION: Scott, did Ambassador Bremer talk to the President about the resistance in Congress to the $20 billion in reconstruction in Iraq? Some members are concerned that some of this money is -- I won't say "frivolous," but unnecessary and that when the administration is trying to hold down spending and basically a big deficit, that it might not be necessary?

MR. McCLELLAN: A couple of things. The President did have a visit with Ambassador Bremer earlier today, to talk about the progress we were making in Iraq and our reconstruction efforts.

The wartime supplemental that you're referencing is critical to prevailing, to the United States prevailing in the central front in the war on terrorism, and building a better future for the Iraqi people. A free, sovereign and democratic Iraq will help bring about peace and stability in a very volatile region -- that is the Middle East, that has been a breeding ground for terrorism, that has spawned terrorism. And so what we are trying to do there, both in terms of establish better security and move forward on reconstruction that will bring about a better future for the Iraqi people, is critical to the overall war on terrorism.

Q: Did they talk about the mood in Congress? Did they talk about, even that some Republicans are leery about this?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I'm not going to get into specifics, this was in a meeting that I'm reading out today. But they did discuss the Iraq reconstruction and the importance of this wartime supplemental.

Q: Well, aside from the meeting, no one disputes the notions that you just laid out, that it's important that Iraq be reconstructed. But a number of Republicans are suggesting that any money that goes for that should be in the form of loan guarantees, rather than U.S. taxpayers paying for it. What's the White House view on that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we put forward a package as a supplemental. And we believe that this is the right approach to take to help us prevail in this front on the war on terrorism. Obviously, there is a congressional process. So we are continuing to work closely with Congress. But we believe the approach that we are taking is the right approach to take.

Q: Well, yes, but why? Why do you think it's the right approach?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we've put forward both -- this entire package should be viewed as one package for helping us in this central front.

Q: What's wrong with the idea of loan guarantees?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, as I said, there is a congressional process. We, obviously, work very closely with Congress as it moves through that process. But we believe that the package we have put forward, the entire package should be in the form of a supplemental that goes to bring about civility and stability in Iraq for the reasons I've already stated.

Q: But does the administration inherently oppose the idea of loan guarantees? Are you saying you're open to working with Congress on that?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm saying that we recognize there is a congressional process. As this moves through the legislative process, we will work closely with Congress, as we have been. We've had administration officials up on the Hill all week, talking about the supplemental and the importance of passing this quickly. And we'll continue to work with Congress as we do that.

Q: You make it sound like you're open on this question.

MR. McCLELLAN: What I'm saying is that we're continuing to fight for the package as we outlined it and as we presented it to Congress. But, obviously, we recognize this is a process where we work together on it.

Q: Scott, there's a new Census Bureau report that says 1.7 million people slid into poverty last year. Is the President surprised by these numbers?

MR. McCLELLAN: Steve, a couple things. I think, one, that the numbers do reflect the economic slowdown that we have been through and the unemployment situation. Unemployment is a lagging indicator. But let me remind you that the action that we have taken to boost the economy and to create jobs is essential to turning this around.

We have also worked on a number of fronts, besides putting forward the economic packages that we have, to create an environment for job growth. We have also worked on a number of initiatives to build upon the successes we have made in moving people from welfare to work. We have worked to expand home ownership for low-income Americans so that more Americans can realize the American Dream and participate in what the President refers to as an ownership society. We've also pursued historic education reforms to improve the quality of education, which I think is key in the long-run as well. We've worked to reach out to faith-based groups. We passed a child tax credit to increase the child tax credit for families.

Q: He's asking about jobs, jobs. Not home ownership -- jobs, more jobs in this country.

MR. McCLELLAN: And I just addressed that. The President --

Q: Are you saying there are going to be more jobs?

MR. McCLELLAN: If you look at the latest indicators on GDP, which were revised today, you see that the economy continues to grow and it continues to pick up, grow stronger.

Q: And will there be more jobs?

MR. McCLELLAN: So the economy is moving in the right direction. And unemployment is always a lagging indicator, particularly when you have high productivity --

Q: How far is it lagging?

MR. McCLELLAN: -- which the President has talked about. But, remember, when you're coming out of recession, like we did, when the President inherited it -- and he acted to make it one of the shallowest and shortest in history -- you see unemployment as a lagging indicator. But there are a lot of other positive signs about the way the economy is --

Q: Well, what do you think that --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- there are a lot of other positive signs about the way the economy is moving. But the President is not satisfied as long as people who are looking for work cannot find a job when they're looking for it.

Q: We understand that, but I want to know --

MR. McCLELLAN: And that's why there's more that we can do, and that's why the President has continued to press for additional action on the economic front.

Q: When do you think there will be more jobs?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think economists have talked about as the economy continues to pick up steam and grow at a faster rate, then you will see more job creation come into the mix. But it's important to create the conditions for job growth, and that's why the President continues to say there's more that we need to do. We need to work to pass a comprehensive energy plan. That's important not only to our national security, but our economic security. We need to move forward and make the tax cuts permanent. That provides certainty for people, so that they can plan. And it's important that we make those tax cuts permanent.

We need to work to --

Q: It hasn't had any effect yet.

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me finish, Helen. We need to work to expand trade and make sure that there's a level playing field for our manufacturers, and that's what the President has been working on. We also need to work to streamline regulations. We need to pass lawsuit reform. There are a number of steps that we can continue to work on to make the economy grow even faster and create a environment for job creation.

Q: Scott, to follow on that, one of the central and longest lasting arguments for tax cuts, going back to the first big package in 2001, is that cutting taxes would create jobs. Clearly, that hasn't happened, indeed, the economy continues to shed jobs, even as -- even as various indicators are undeniably moving in a positive direction. Is the President wrong to suggest that job creation would happen? And --

MR. McCLELLAN: I think we've pointed out that there would have been additional 1.3 or 1.4 million people would have been without a job if we hadn't taken the action we did. The first thing you've got to do is turn the economy around. The President acted, he led, and he acted and we passed those tax cuts to get more money back into people's pockets so they can spend it on a good or service. The economy is growing. And when that -- the unemployment is a lagging indicator. As I said, that's going to come along, and as the economy picks up even more steam, the economists will tell you then that creates an environment for job creation.

Q: Is he concerned about --

MR. McCLELLAN: When people have more certainty, then they can plan, they can invest and so forth.

Q: A growing number of economists on Wall Street, who study this for a living, say that it appears that we may be undergoing a fundamental change in the American work force, and that we may have a recovery. But because of increased productivity those jobs may be going away and going away for good.

MR. McCLELLAN: That's something the President has talked about often, about the high productivity rate and why we need to get -- why we needed -- why unemployment has been lagging because of that high productivity rate, and because of the direction our economy is going. But that's also why he will continue to emphasize there's more that we can do to improve our economic security. And that's why he will continue acting on those fronts, as well.

Q: Scott, back to the Iraq package, which you have said several times now is critical to the war on terror and America's security. Is improving the Iraqi mail system critical to the war on terror?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let me give you a little bit of history here. I think that if you look back at America, our Constitutional Congress was organized in Philadelphia in 1775 to establish an independent government. What was one of the first actions that they worked to address? It was to deliver the mail. Because the postal system that Congress created helped to bring the new nation together, it helped support the growth of commerce, and it helped ensure a free flow of ideas and information. So look back to our own history and you can see how that's important to building the institutions necessary for a democracy to succeed.

And let me point out that this was a country that had been under 30 years of neglect. This was a country that was under a brutal regime, that was more interested in serving itself by building palaces than it was in serving the Iraqi people. So 30 years of neglect. And you have to make sure that the institutions are in place to bring about a civil and orderly society. And so that's why this is important. And what I've just said, that because when we have a free, sovereign, and democratic Iraq, you will have more peace and stability in a very volatile region.

Q: I don't think you're going to get too many people denying that mail is important. What I'm asking, though, is that you have no qualms about asking Congress for $54 million of American money to improve the Iraqi mail system at a time when, for example, the American mail system is losing money hand over fist.

MR. McCLELLAN: There are a number of things within the package that you point out, the $20 billion, that is part of the overall package, and part of the reconstruction side. Again, the wartime supplemental is important to make sure our troops have the resources they need to finish the job and that they have a secure environment in which to carry out their tasks. So it's important in that respect.

It's also important in the respect of bringing about civility and stability in Iraq, doing it in an orderly fashion. Again, this was a people that were under the oppressive, brutal regime of Saddam Hussein for some 30 years. They didn't invest in the infrastructure. It's important to build the institutions necessary for that democracy to be -- democracy and peace to be lasting. And so that's why this package is important, in that sense.

Q: Scott, on May 11, 2001, General Wesley Clark told a Lincoln Day dinner in Little Rock, "We've got the great team in office, Powell, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice and our President, George W. Bush. We need them there." But General Clark also claims that on September 11, 2001, he got a call from, "People around the White House" asking him to link Saddam Hussein to the 9/11 attacks. And is there any truth in this second claim? And I have a follow up.

MR. McCLELLAN: Les, we've already addressed your second part of that question. The first part, I'm very aware of what was previously said, but I'm not going to get into the middle of a primary between 10 people right now.

Q: The President's father appointed Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness to the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services. Mrs. Donnelly asks why this latest President Bush is allowing the continuation of the Clinton elimination of the Department of Defense risk rule, which ordered that no women should be placed in combat support units with significant risk of capture.

And my question, considering the Iraqi Army capture of three women in the 507th Maintenance Company, as well as a woman Marine giving birth on a warship near Kuwait this last May, why won't the President restore the risk rule that Clinton eliminated? I want to know about the President, not the Department of Defense -- the President.

MR. McCLELLAN: Les, I think the President views our men and women in the Armed Forces as doing a very outstanding job in all that they have done. I think if you have specifics about what the Defense Department rules are, talk to the Department. Talk to the Department.

Q: I want to know, why doesn't he want the risk rule --

MR. McCLELLAN: Talk to the Department of Defense.

Q: -- that his father said was good?

Q: Scott, last night on "Nightline," General Zinni did an interview with Ted Koppel, his first since he left the administration. And he had a couple criticisms, and I'd like to just go through just a couple quickly to see if you can react to them. One, he suggested that the run-up to this war in Iraq was similar to what happened in Vietnam and the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. He said that the excuse of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution was similar to the excuse of weapons of mass destruction in the run up to this war.

And, secondly, he talked about plans that were made under the Clinton administration in 1999. One plan, specifically called Desert Crossing, which was a plan for Iraq's reconstruction, General Zinni saying that that plan would have worked better than what the Bush administration has done in Iraq, that he shouldn't have fired the army, among other things, the Iraqi army. And for other reasons, his plan would have been better. Can you respond to either of those?

MR. McCLELLAN: I reject the comparison there. But we are making some important progress in Iraq. We are achieving successes. That's why you see the desperation of attacks being carried out by remnants of the former regime and foreign terrorists who continue to be in that country. That's why our military continues to be on the offensive there.

But, remember, we went to war in Iraq, and we accomplished it with great speed. We accomplished it by removing a regime while doing minimal damage to the country. It's a new -- a whole new way of fighting a war, because of the technology and the precision and the strength of our men and women in the Armed Forces. So I just -- I reject the comparison there.

Q: Which comparison?

MR. McCLELLAN: And we will continue -- we will continue now working on the post-war efforts at reconstruction and stability. And we have put forward clear objectives. We have also -- Ambassador Bremer has put forward a seven step process toward giving Iraq back to the Iraqi people so that they can have a sovereign and prosperous future.

Q: When you say, "I reject the comparison," just to be clear, you're --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you were talking about Vietnam, and I just totally reject that. This is the war on terrorism. This is the central front now in the war on terrorism. This is the central front now in the war on terrorism. And this is all part --

Q: Well, how many -- on the war on terrorism --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- this is all part of the war on terrorism.

Q: Is it not helpful for someone like General Zinni, someone of his stature to be out there, saying these sorts of things?

MR. McCLELLAN: People have the right to express their opinions, but I reject any comparison there.

Q: Scott, if I could ask you a little bit about President Putin's visit. Three times, by my count, the past meetings between President Bush and President Putin, the issue of the weapon shipments to Iran of nuclear technology have come up, starting first nearly two years ago. In each one of these, the response has been a variant of the same thing by the Russians: We're studying it and we'll let you know. It does not now look as if they have changed their policy despite new evidence, some of which you saw in the papers this morning, that the Iranians accelerated their program.

At what point do we conclude that Russia is not actually a partner in halting the spread of nuclear technology to Iran? And what does this tell us about what you often celebrate as a great relationship between the two presidents?

MR. McCLELLAN: There is a new a strategic relationship with Russia that the two presidents have worked to develop. We are partnering in a number of areas to address our shared challenges. I think when it comes to Iran, the President made it very clear that that would be one of the discussions we have with Russia during the meetings that will take place here soon. I don't want to jump ahead of the meetings. Obviously, that --

Q: You've made that clear three times now and you're --

MR. McCLELLAN: I know. Obviously, there will be an opportunity for the two leaders to talk to you all in the media and take questions, and they'll have more -- then we can have more to talk about after this meeting occurs.

But I think that you highlight a very important multilateral success in this administration: the international community is coming together, recognizing the seriousness of Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons. It's something that we have been talking about for quite a while, and now you have the rest of the international community recognizing it. You have the International and Atomic Energy Agency stepping up their efforts and setting a firm deadline for Iran to comply.

So it's an issue that is very serious. It's an issue that the President will continue bringing up -- he brought it up with many of the world leaders he met with. And he looks forward to visiting with President Putin about it, as well.

Q: Scott, if I could just follow David's question. I mean, beyond the talk, is the administration prepared to offer any type of incentives for Russia to give up this deal? I mean, whether or not it's more information, more evidence or -- I mean, they stand to lose $800 million with this -- economic incentives?

MR. McCLELLAN: I know we want to have the meeting here in this room, but let's let the two leaders have the meeting, let them discuss it and then we will have more to say about it after that.

Q: Mr. Putin has also said that there are western companies that are also involved in nuclear technology and the industry inside of Iran. Is there a double standard here? Is the administration's position that those companies should not be involved --

MR. McCLELLAN: The spread of weapons of mass destruction and WMD technology and related materials is one of the most dangerous threats we face in this 21st century. And that's why the President went to the -- well, that's why the President put forward the proliferation security initiative, where we're working closely with 11 nations to interdict shipments using the existing legal authorities. That's why he went to the United Nations and said, we need a new resolution to address the spread of weapons of mass destruction and related materials and technology.

And so we're calling on all nations to step up their efforts to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction. It's something that's very important to the safety and security of the world in the 21st century.

Q: One more on that. There are a lot of reports recently about how Putin has cracked down on freedoms within his own country -- freedom of the press and intimidating his opponents. Does the President plan to raise that issue with Putin at all?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, if there's -- let's let the meeting take place. I think they're going to discuss a range of issues. We'll see what they discuss, and we'll have more to say about it --

Q: Let me ask then --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- once the meeting has taken place. And we've always made our views very well known.

Q: But, more generally, does he feel constrained from talking about that with Putin because we need Russia's help in the war on terror?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, look, there are some difficult issues that the President brings up from time to time with world leaders. And he is certainly someone that recognizes there are times when we have some disagreements. But he's not afraid to raise those issues.

Q: Scott, going back to Iraq and the financing of Iraqi reconstruction, as you know, there's a donors conference coming up next month. What is your current expectation about what that conference is likely to produce in the way of new aid?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we've been visiting with countries about ways that they can provide financial assistance or provide troop support. Those conversations are still ongoing. I would remind you that there are some 30 nations already participating with troops in Iraq, and we welcome that support. I think there's some positive indications from other countries, as well, that haven't made those announcements publicly.

So we're continuing to have discussions on that front. We're continuing to have discussions about ways they can support the reconstruction efforts with financial assistance. That conference is what, still about a month off? We look forward to going to it and talking with nations about -- more specifically about ways that they can contribute.

But I don't want to put any handicaps on it at this stage. Let's let that donors conference take place. Let's let the discussions --

Q: Well, what --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there are going to be a number of discussions continuing between now and the donors conference. Secretary Powell has continued to have meetings with world leaders up in New York since early -- and the President had meetings earlier this week when he was there. So we're continuing to pursue those efforts.

But the world has a stake in what is going on in Iraq because there are enemies of the civilized world who are trying to spread chaos and fear. We're trying to spread hope and peace. And the international community has a very important role to play in this.

Q: At one point -- excuse me --

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, sorry.

Q: I remember at one point the administration was talking about generating as much as $50 billion out of that conference. Is that now seen as unrealistic and scaled back?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I'm not putting any handicaps on it one way or the other. We welcome all the support that we receive, and we'll be talking more specifically with countries about ways that they can contribute.

Q: Scott, in the meeting this morning, did Ambassador Bremer shed any light on the question of why weapons of mass destruction have not yet been found in Iraq?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, Dr. Kaye is the one who's leading that effort. I'm not going to get into further reading out that meeting, other than to say they talked about the progress being made in Iraq and the reconstruction efforts. That was really the focus of that meeting. Dr. Kaye is the one who is leading the Iraq Survey Group --

Q: -- find weapons.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- to present a full picture of what we know about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and his weapons of mass destruction programs. So we'll have more on that on his schedule, on his time frame.

Q: Thank you. The abortion pill, RU-486 has claimed yet another young woman's life. When might the President direct the FDA to ban the dangerous drug and investigate the process by which it was given expedited approval under the Clinton administration? Further, what do you say to the parents of Holly Patterson, whose daughter took the drug believing it to be safe?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President has always expressed his concern that what's most important is the safety of women, and that continues to be a priority for him. There are certain limitations, in terms of -- well, the FDA has some independent authority and they looked at this issue previously to this administration. But the President's concern is certainly the safety issue.

Q: The FDA banned ephedra because a popular athlete died from taking it. Why is this any less important or less critical?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, the President has expressed his concerns about safety.

Q: In practical, real terms, is the road map for peace now dead? And, also, this is the period of the Jewish high holy days, is the administration more concerned about terrorism at this particular juncture?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President remains committed to moving forward on the road map. The road map is the way forward to the President's vision that he outlined of two states living side-by-side in peace and security. So we remain committed to it.

What needs to happen, though, is that there needs to be a Palestinian Prime Minister and cabinet that is empowered to crack down on terrorism, that has a unified security structure. We've got to end the terrorism. And that's the first step, that's the foundation for moving forward on the road map. So we remain committed to working with both parties; all parties have responsibilities to carry out under the road map. Obviously, we've hit a difficult period here with the resignation of Prime Minister Abbas, but we will continue to be engaged, we have continued to be engaged in this important effort.

Q: What about the Jewish high holy days and terrorism?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, there's no change in the current terrorism alert level at this point.

Q: On the Do Not Call legislation, I was wondering if you could clarify? The President's intention is to sign this on Monday, but if the judge's ruling isn't reversed, then what happens on October 1?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that you will hear more from the FTC later this afternoon about some legal steps that they may be pursuing. You pointed out there were two different court cases. The legislation specifically was in response to the Oklahoma ruling. It was a different ruling in the Denver courts. But, you know, the President strongly supported the Do Not Call List and he looks forward to signing the legislation. We will also continue to pursue all appropriate legal steps as we move forward.

People should have the right to prevent unwanted telemarketing calls that are intrusive and annoying and all too common. I can relate to people that receive intrusive, annoying, all too common calls. (Laughter.)

Q: Not from telemarketers. (Laughter.)

Q: What about GOP fundraising calls, Scott? (Laughter.)

MR. McCLELLAN: You may do a follow up and then I'll come -- I'm going to do a follow up with Paula, and then I'll come -- I didn't say anybody specifically. I don't know what you're --

Q: As far as appropriate legal steps, might that include some form of regulation authorizing the FTC to establish the Do Not Call List, so therefore it's --

MR. McCLELLAN: I think that may be jumping ahead of where things are. Obviously, the legislation has passed, the President looks forward to signing it. There are some 50 million phone numbers that have been registered with the Do Not Call Registry. So there's -- it's something that the President feels strongly about, that people should have the right to do, if they don't want to receive those calls. So we will continue pursuing all avenues on this, from the legal standpoint, in terms of signing the legislation. I think there's a lot still being reviewed about the court's decision in Denver, as well.

Q: Scott, two questions, if I may. The first is, I believe you said that the President did not directly ask any of the leaders that he had bilateral meetings with in New York at the United Nations General Assembly -- he did not ask them directly for troop commitments or financial commitments in Iraq.

MR. McCLELLAN: I think other administration officials -- senior administration official types will be speaking about specifics.

Q: Does the President intend to raise these subjects directly with Mr. Putin?

MR. McCLELLAN: Raise the subject of Iraq reconstruction? They will talk about reconstruction efforts in Iraq. Again, this is another area -- let's let the meeting take place, then we'll have more to say on it after that meeting has taken place.

Q: All right, second question, we keep talking about reconstruction of Iraq and the subject has come up about -- and loans and so forth. Can you just clarify, when we are going to help reconstruct Iraq? To what level? Is it to the level prior to the war? Is it going to be a level prior to sanctions being imposed in 1991? Or are we going to try to make up for two, three decades of neglect?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, it's going to be -- we're going to finish the job because it's important to see it through, transferring responsibility to the Iraqi people. They're beginning to take -- they're taking more and more responsibility for their future now. You have the ministers overseeing health, overseeing education, overseeing public safety, overseeing oil. So more and more responsibility is being transferred to the Iraqi people as they can assume that responsibility.

Q: I'm talking, for instance, about infrastructure.

MR. McCLELLAN: What we've laid out -- well, and part of that reconstruction package -- well, that reconstruction package, that was what Ambassador Bremer looked at and thought was the overall needs of what we need to support reconstruction in Iraq. But we are moving as quickly as possible in an orderly way to transfer authority to the Iraqi people. And as soon as they are ready to take full authority over, then we will no longer be needed there.

Q: Right. But I notice we have things like -- I don't believe they had zip codes before two or three decades ago. And, yet, we want to establish a system where they have zip codes. We're going to build several new communities, even right down to market places. Why should that be up to us?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again -- well, we're working with the Governing Council. You have a broad representative government of the -- Governing Council of the Iraqi people. So we're working with Governing Council. We're working with the ministers that they appointed. Again, this was part of the seven step process that Ambassador Bremer outlined. They named the Governing Council. They named ministers. They established a constitutional commission to begin the process of drafting a constitution. Then they'll draft a constitution. That constitution can be ratified. Then they can have free and fair elections, and then we'll be in a position where the Iraqi people have full authority over their future. They will be in a position where we have a free, sovereign and prosperous Iraq, which is critical to bringing about peace and stability in the Middle East.

Q: I was just wondering if you're trying to --

MR. McCLELLAN: We're moving as quickly as we can in an orderly fashion. And that's what we're doing.

Q: I just thought maybe it looked like we're trying to catch up on reconstructing the infrastructure to a level that actually had never existed in the first place.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, certainly, the infrastructure was in even worse shape than anyone expected, I think. And you saw, because of 30 years of neglect under a brutal, repressive regime. But at the same time, remember that we acted with great precision and speed to win the war. Now we're in the period of securing the peace, a lasting peace for the Iraqi people, and building a better future for them. So we started off in a better position than probably many people would have expected. But there were a lot of parts of the infrastructure that had deteriorated because you had a regime that was spending their money on their extravagance, spending money on their palaces, spending money on all the torture chambers and so forth.

Q: Scott, for the average American will ask that question about what a computer study, a $54-million computer study about the postal service in Iraq, what does that have to do with security? You would say to them --

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, well, what I would say to them is that we have put forward a wartime supplemental to help us prevail in the central front in the war on terrorism. I would point out that in that package, it includes $2 billion -- a little bit more than $2 billion for an Iraqi army, so that we can relieve our troops. It puts in $2 billion for -- more than $2 billion for a police force and border security. It puts in nearly a billion for criminal prosecutions and locking up killers.

And then we talked about the postal service earlier; we talked about another area -- all this is important to building the institutions that are necessary to bring about a civil, orderly and functioning society. You have to have a functioning society for the peace and democracy to be lasting. So that's what we're in the process of.

Q: The common sense question that many people ask is, what does mail delivery have to do with security?

MR. McCLELLAN: And I just pointed out the fact that it helps bring about a civil, orderly, functioning society. I just pointed out the fact that it was one of the very first steps that we took here with our own Continental Congress back in 1775. It's important to bringing a new nation together, and supporting the growth of commerce, and ensuring the free flow of ideas and information, just like it was for America many years ago.

Q: -- timetable that Powell talked about today, a deadline, a sort of a soft deadline for moving forward with the constitution, has the President talked to him about that? What's his view?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think Secretary Powell addressed some of this earlier today, and what he was giving was a realistic estimate of how long it might take to draft a constitution. The resolution we are pursuing does not set a specific timetable. The resolution that we are pursuing at the Security Council says that the timetable will be set by the Iraqi Governing Council, working with the Coalition Provisional Authority, for drafting a constitution, for ratifying it and for conducting free elections. So the constitutional commission that the Governing Council set up has been working on that. That was set up under the Governing Council, and will be coming back with a process for drafting that constitution.

So he was just talking about a realistic estimate. But that's not something -- that's something for the Iraqi people to determine on their timetable, working alongside the coalition.

Q: The Governing Council said just this week in a news conference they thought it would take seven or eight months for a constitution. The Secretary of State, after having consulted with the Permanent Five of the Security Council, seems to be saying, we need to speed that up a little --

MR. McCLELLAN: That's why I said it's a realistic estimate. Obviously, we want to, just like the Iraqi people, want to move as quickly as possible. But you have to do it in an orderly fashion. And we want it to be done on a timetable that they set, working with us, to get to that.

Q: Well, no, that's what I'm saying -- Secretary Powell is setting a slightly different timetable than the Iraqi Governing Council mentioned just this week, and seems to be working with the Permanent Five to try to speed things up a little bit.

MR. McCLELLAN: I think you've seen different numbers, six to nine months, and so forth. But, obviously, we're committed to doing this as quickly as possible, but in an orderly fashion. That's just giving out a realistic estimate of how long it might take to draft that constitution once you begin that process.

Q: Let me take one more stab at this. It looks, in the breakout of the reconstruction funding, as though there's an awful lot of money going to consulting studies and the like -- things which are common enough in this country, but one might reasonably ask why that kind of money -- and it is a large sum -- needs to be spent in the reconstruction of Iraq?

MR. McCLELLAN: And I think that we've had administration officials on the Hill all week talking about this, talking about this publicly, answering questions from members of Congress about why this whole package is important, why this whole wartime supplemental needs to be passed.

Q: But the members --

MR. McCLELLAN: This is part of -- by bringing stabilization, bringing about stabilization, bringing about peace, bringing about a civil society in Iraq.

Q: Members don't seem to argue with that. They seem to be upset, on both sides of the aisle, by some of the numbers specifically in the reconstruction package.

MR. McCLELLAN: And that's why the people on the ground in Iraq looked at this. Ambassador Bremer and his team looked at what was needed, they looked at the overall needs. Our military leaders as well, our commanders in the field looked at what the overall needs were for our troops. Again, all this will help our troops make sure that they have the resources they need and it will help make sure that there is an environment that is secure for our troops to carry out their tasks.

Q: Scott, did the President watch the debates last night?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think so.

Q: If we need to call you tonight, what time are you having dinner? (Laughter.)

MR. McCLELLAN: We need this to move forward quicker than October 1. (Laughter.)

END 1:15 P.M. EDT


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