White House Daily Briefing, October 27, 2003
October 27, 2003
THE WHITE HOUSE
PRESS BRIEFING BY SCOTT McCLELLAN
PRESS BRIEFING BY SCOTT McCLELLAN
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
12:39 P.M. EST
MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon. I would like to start with a brief update on federal assistance in fighting the wildfires in California. The President is continuing to monitor the California wildfire situation. He has been assured that all federal resources necessary to fight these fires will be provided to the state of California. FEMA Director Mike Brown is on his way there now. The FEMA regional operations center has been mobilized to coordinate closely with state and local officials and other federal agencies. We have FEMA personnel stationed at the state emergency operations center to be in direct contact with California State emergency management teams.
The Department of Homeland Security has made available 150 customs and border protection agents to assist with evacuations and to support local law enforcement. Since last Thursday, FEMA has approved eight fire management assistance grants to support the state's efforts to combat the recent outbreak of wildfires. This assistance is aimed at helping California with expenses for field camps, equipment use, repair and replacement, tools, materials and supplies, and mobilization and demobilization activities.
So that's the latest update. We are continuing to work with California state officials to assess their needs in terms of the request we received overnight, as well.
And with that, I'll be glad to jump right into questions.
Okay, thank you. (Laughter.) Terry, go ahead.
QUESTION: Scott, there are now upwards of 35 attacks a day being perpetrated in Iraq, and I wonder how the President can claim that's progress?
MR. McCLELLAN: Terry, as we've said, there are dangers that still remain in parts of Iraq. There are dangerous people that are still in parts of Iraq, particularly that Sunni Triangle. We have continued to make progress on security in that area. In the north and south, we have made significant progress. Those areas are secure areas. Most of the attacks -- the vast majority, I think Ambassador Bremer has talked about some 90 percent of those attacks -- are really occurring in the Sunni Triangle.
And what we are continuing to do is go on the offensive with our military to find these terrorists and bring them to justice. These are terrorists who are enemies of freedom and enemies of the Iraqi people. We see the true nature of these terrorists when they carry out attacks like they did today, against aid workers at the Red Cross, against Iraqis at police stations. So we are seeing their true nature in these attacks. But we will not be intimidated. We will stay the course, and we will prevail in this central front on the war on terrorism, because the world has a stake in seeing a peaceful, free, and democratic and prosperous Iraq emerge. It will serve as an example for the rest of the Middle East.
Q: These attacks are increasing in number and in sophistication. You now have -- you have simultaneous attacks across Baghdad today. That doesn't sound like progress in securing Iraq. It sounds like --
MR. McCLELLAN: There are a number of fronts where we are making important progress. We are continuing to work on the security front, as well. Our military leaders have said that some of these attacks have become more sophisticated. But what you're really seeing is that the more progress we make, the more desperate these killers become. And that's what these people are -- these are cold-blooded killers that are enemies of freedom, they hate peace and freedom, and they're enemies of the Iraqi people. We will continue to work with the coalition to bring these individuals to justice. And that's why our military will stay on the offensive.
Q: Have you got a timetable on when the Iraqi people can feel safe, or when the American people can feel that we're making progress?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, we've always --
Q: And I ask because Senator McCain has specifically said that the window, he believes, is closing. And for the first time this veteran of the Vietnam War has said it feels similar to him.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think in a six month period we have accomplished quite a bit on the democratic front, on the economic front, in helping the Iraqi people build a better future that is based on democracy and sovereignty and prosperity. And we will continue to work on those fronts. What you see is the schools are -- all the schools are open, all the hospitals are open, children are receiving immunizations, electricity is above pre-war levels, oil production is up. There are a number of areas where significant progress has been made.
We will continue to move forward in those areas. We will also continue to stay on the offensive and take the fight to the enemies of the Iraqi people who are carrying out these attacks. We will bring them to justice. They will not succeed. We will not be intimidated by these kinds of -- that's all they seek to do, is to intimidate us and to spread fear and chaos. We will spread hope and peace, and we will continue to move forward, because of the important stakes involved in Iraq. This is the central front in the war on terrorism.
Q: Scott, let me just follow on a couple of points. I mean, this is all going on at a time when this White House is telling the American people, listen, don't believe the mainstream media, they're not telling you all the good news that's happening there, they're only telling you about the bad news, and it's not the full picture. It's also at the time when the American government is prepared to pledge tens of billions of dollars to reconstruct Iraq, and when you're asking foreign governments to do the same.
So all of this progress that the President is talking about that the terrorists are trying to undo, even if that's the case, isn't it a dire concern now of this administration that just in the area of infrastructure alone that all the money that's going to go toward reconstruction will be undermined, in a very physical sense, by these terror groups who are attacking on a daily basis.
MR. McCLELLAN: David, these enemies of the Iraqi people will not succeed. These enemies of freedom and peace will not succeed.
Q: That's great rhetoric, but the reality is --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm glad you brought up --
Q: -- you've got a security problem on the ground. Why won't the President be more specific about who they are, what's being done to stop them and why it persists as long as is does?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that our military leaders in the region in Iraq have been specific about saying that what we have are holdouts of the former regime who are in Iraq and foreign terrorists who have entered the country. We also have a number of criminals that were let loose when Saddam Hussein's regime was falling. And we will continue to go after all those killers and bring them to justice.
I think it's important to point out what you just said, we did also have a very successful donors conference this weekend. The international community recognizes that the world has a stake in seeing a free, peaceful and democratic Iraq emerge. This will serve -- a free, democratic and prosperous Iraq will serve as an example for the rest of the Middle East. Free societies do not breed the ideology of terrorists. And that's why we will continue --
Q: Well, Scott, what about the question? I mean --
MR. McCLELLAN: This is --
Q: -- at a time when you want all this money to go to reconstruction, you've got groups out there attacking on a near daily basis with more sophistication, as Terry points out, and with devastating effect. I mean, how can you pour all of this money and call, you know, the Madrid conference a success, when you've got money going into revitalizing infrastructure that is obviously in some jeopardy?
MR. McCLELLAN: Keep in mind, as we continue to improve the infrastructure, which we have made significant progress in improving the infrastructure, that will help improve the security situation and help our troops succeed in our mission. So it's important that we move forward to provide our troops with all the resources they need. It's also important that we continue to move forward on the economic and democratic front to transition to a sovereign nation for the Iraqi people. And as we provide these resources on that front, it'll help improve the security situation for our troops to succeed.
But it's --
Q: Bottom line, you just want the American people now to believe, don't worry about it, in the end it'll be okay.
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, what we will continue to emphasize is what we have said all along, that as we make progress, and the more progress we make, the more desperate some of these holdouts of the former regime will become -- the more desperate these foreign terrorists will become. They do not want to see us succeed in Iraq because they know that it will be a devastating blow in the war on terrorism. And when we succeed we will have dealt the terrorists a significant blow. And that's why it's important that we continue to stay the course and we continue to go on the offensive to bring these killers to justice.
Q: Scott, one on this and one on the economy, if I may. The President always talks about benchmarks, about the importance of being able to measure performance -- he does in regard to education and lots of other issues, perhaps suggestive of his MBA -- give the American people a way to measure his performance in Iraq by the time they step into the voting booth in November 2004. If attacks like these are still going on at that time, would they be right in judging the policy a failure?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, we are moving forward as quickly as we can to transition and to transfer responsibility as quickly as we can to the Iraqi people. That's important. That's why the wartime supplemental that is before Congress right now is critically important to our efforts in Iraq. Congress -- we appreciate the fact that Congress is moving forward quickly to get this wartime supplemental passed, to get our troops the resources they need to succeed, to get resources to the Iraqi people so they can realize a better future and so we can improve the security situation to help our troops succeed.
And so we'll continue working closely with Congress on that front. And this is all about helping us transition and transfer responsibility to the Iraqi people as quickly as possible.
Q: Is that a suggestion then -- and I do still want to get to the economy -- was that a suggestion, then, that by the time Election Day 2004 rolls around, that transition will have occurred, do you believe?
MR. McCLELLAN: You're putting certain time lines on this. I'm saying that we're moving as quickly as possible. If you look at the recently passed U.N. Resolution, 1511, it calls on the Iraqi Governing Council by December 15th to come up with a time line for a constitution and to move forward on free elections. Again, what you see with these kind of attacks are, the more progress we make, the more desperate these killers become, because they do not want to see a free and peaceful Iraq emerge. These are people that oppressed the Iraqi people for over 30 years, and they have lost their power and they are becoming more and more desperate.
Let me come back to the economy. Let's stay -- will we stay on this subject?
MR. McCLELLAN: Okay.
Q: The donors conference, it came up quite a bit short of what the World Bank and U.N. says is needed -- I don't know, $20 billion short, or whatever. How do you propose to make up that difference? And can you rule out coming back to Congress and asking them for more money?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think we made a tremendous amount of progress on the international front at the donors conference in Madrid. And they're still tallying all the results of that, but it surpassed our expectations and we're pleased with the response from the international community.
We have also pointed out that this is over a several-year period. And you see oil production continue to go up in Iraq, that much of that remaining money will be made up of, in the form of surplus oil production from the Iraqi -- from Iraq. And we will also continue reaching out to the international community in other ways to provide financial assistance to the Iraqi people.
Q: So no more U.S. aid, that $20 billion --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we've said that we won't be going back with another supplemental. If there are additional sums that may be needed, they'd be in the regular appropriations process.
Q: How much oil revenue are you counting on?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that it's been estimated at surplus oil revenue beginning, I think, in 2005, $5 billion a year in surplus oil revenues that would go towards these efforts in Iraq.
Q: On the question of foreign terrorists. When Bremer was asked about this on television yesterday, he said: most of them seem to be coming across the Syrian border, but the Ansar al-Islam, which is another al Qaeda-related group, they appear to have come across the Iranian border, starting in about July.
What is being done diplomatically and militarily to begin to try to stem the flow of foreign terrorists into Iraq? And what evidence is there that al Qaeda is playing any kind of role in everything that's going on?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, we've made our concerns known to all the countries in the region about foreign terrorists crossing the borders. And we will continue to do that. You mentioned Ansar al-Islam, a group that was previously in Iraq, and that we talked about when we talked about the terrorist ties that Saddam Hussein's regime had. So we will continue to make those concerns known, and that they can take steps to help us in these efforts.
Q: But making concerns known, it sounds not terribly aggressive in the face of --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we're also continuing to improve the border patrol. You have more Iraqis now involved in their security, both in -- well, in the police forces, some 55,000, a number in the border patrol, and a number in the civil defense forces. So there are a number of ways that we're working to improve the security situation, with one of the foremost being that the Iraqi people are the second largest contributors to their own security. And that number is growing on a daily basis because the vast majority of the Iraqi people want to see a free and peaceful and prosperous future emerge.
Q: Follow-up to that. Scott, before the President went to Australia, there was a roundtable discussion with reporters. And one of the questions was, with the Democrats' message being filtered out to many of these other countries, in reference to the President's foreign policy, particularly as it relates to Iraq, and then we saw what happened in Australia, and now you're hearing about what will not be happening in London, do you think that message is now getting out that this Iraqi situation may be a failure, if indeed, it's not been found? And some people are saying that this whole situation was contrived.
MR. McCLELLAN: That what situation?
Q: The Iraqi situation was contrived.
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't -- again, there's a lot of politics going on, on the Democratic side. We'll let them talk about politics. We're going to stay focused on what we're trying to achieve in Iraq and why we are trying achieve it. The President led and acted to confront what was a grave and gathering threat, as he outlined before the international community. The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution saying there would be serious consequences if Saddam Hussein continued to fail to comply with his international obligations after 12 years. And we followed through on that to make sure that that word was kept, and to better protect the American people, and to make the world a safer place.
Q: But the reaction in Australian was real. The President may not go to parliament in London because of the nay-sayers and their strong feelings.
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the President was warmly received by the parliament in Australia, and appreciated the response that he got.
Q: And a last on something -- is the President -- there is a call for the President to fix this disparity problem. There's word that Shoshana Johnson, shot in the ankle as a POW, she's only getting 30 percent disability, whereas Jessica Lynch is getting 80 percent disability. And the President is being called upon to fix this disparity of -- or get something moving. Have you heard anything about it?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't have any update. I think that you might want to address those questions to the Pentagon, they can probably better address those questions.
Q: -- there is a big disparity gap there. Is he -- is there a concern here?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he has confidence that the military will address those matters.
Q: Where does the White House think that the weapons are coming from that are being used in Iraq? Do you think that they're currently coming over the border? That they were in Iraq? Where does --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll leave that to our military commanders in the region to discuss. They're the ones that are closest to that situation and in best position to address those issues. So I'll leave it to them to address it.
Q: Scott, two quick unrelated questions. One, on California, in the past few years FEMA has received a lot of credit for acting very quickly. Why did it take Director Brown so long to get -- start going to California?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think we have been responding quickly. I just mentioned that we have provided grants to California to help in fighting these wildfires.
Q: But he didn't leave until today to go to California.
MR. McCLELLAN: I'd double check with his schedule, but I think he's out that way and on his way to California.
Q: On Medicare, the President is going to speak about it Wednesday. Is he prepared to do any more than he has done to get this bill through? Because he has called people here to say, I want this bill -- but is he prepared to do any more than that? And, if so, what?
MR. McCLELLAN: It's a very high priority for the President. It's a high priority for our nation's seniors. The President is continuing to work closely with Congress to pass a modernized and strengthened Medicare bill that provides seniors with more choices and better benefits so that seniors can choose the health care that best meets their individual needs -- just like members of Congress can.
We are working closely with Congress. This is a real opportunity to once and for all get this passed. Medicare has not kept up with modern medicine, and that's why we are continuing to work closely with Congress. We're pleased that progress is being made, but this is -- and we should not let this opportunity pass. And the President will continue to work with Congress and urge Congress to move as quickly as possible to get this done.
Q: So the answer is, he's not going to do any more than what he has already done? Which is to urge Congress to --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he'll continue to be -- he's had meetings with members of Congress, he'll continue to have meetings with members of Congress and urge them to move forward on this high priority for this Congress.
Q: -- get more involved as he did on tax cuts, on education reform?
MR. McCLELLAN: He will work as hard as he can and do what is necessary to get this important priority for America's seniors passed.
Q: On the economy, you had some good numbers on the housing starts today, but we heard a lot from the Democratic candidates last night in that debate -- for example, Wesley Clark: they came to office with no policies except tax cuts, they said tax cuts would help us, it would bring us jobs -- they didn't; they said they'd fix Social Security, they didn't.
The state of the economy today?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the economy is moving in the right direction. It's continuing to grow, this is after coming out of a recession and the attacks of September 11th, the corporate scandals and the lead-up, obviously, to the war with Iraq. But it continues to move in the right direction, but the President is not satisfied because there are still people who are looking for work who cannot find a job. And that's why he's continuing to urge Congress to act on his six-point plan to strengthen our economy even more and translate that economic growth into job creation. And the President won't be satisfied as long as there are people looking for work who cannot find a job.
Q: Is the economy going in the right direction, or is it just going in the wrong direction less quickly?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think what you're seeing is it's continuing to grow. You cited one positive indicator. There are a number of positive indicators about the direction the economy is moving. And Congress needs to move forward on the rest of the President's proposals to get our economy growing even faster and create the conditions necessary for strong job creation.
Q: What was the President seeking, what was his central message to Bremer today and what did he want to learn in that meeting today?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, they had a good discussion. I think he received an update on recent developments, both in terms of the donors conference, the Ambassador has been talking about that over the weekend, we just had the recently completed donors conference, which was very successful and another sign that the international community recognizes that the world has a stake in what's going on in Iraq. You had the recently passed third U.N. -- postwar U.N. resolution, that also sent that same message to the Iraqi people, that the international community supports you in your efforts to have a better future.
Q: So did he want to talk to Bremer about the budget?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he also received --
Q: About financing?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think it was a general update on the progress, an update on the donors conference and an update on the security situation. You had Secretary Rumsfeld as well as Generals Myers and Abizaid that were present at the meeting, so they were able to discuss all those issues.
Q: Were they able to discuss what they might do differently, in light of the recent rash of problems?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think they talked about the security situation and the efforts that they are undertaking to bring those people to justice.
Q: New tactics?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I would leave those to the military leaders to address.
Q: We've been seeing an increasing number of attacks, casualties to U.S. soldiers, international organizations, Iraqi civilians. For a long time we've been hearing that the commanders in the field, U.S. commanders have been saying the number of troops there are exactly what is needed. Doesn't the President feel it might be time to send some more troops?
MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, I think -- what I pointed out earlier was that you're seeing the Iraqi people assume more and more responsibility for their future, and that includes the security situation. You have more and more Iraqis who are becoming members of the police force, who are becoming members of their civil defense force, who are becoming members of their border patrol.
So that's an important step forward. And I think that our military leaders have addressed this issue, and they will always look at and assess what our troop needs are, in terms of achieving our objectives in Iraq. But those are decisions that we leave to our commanders in the field, because they're the ones closest to the situation and best able to make those judgments.
Q: Scott, getting back to Randy's question about the donor's conference. You've said several times today, this morning and this afternoon now, that it was a success. However, as you know, at least half the money -- and the tally is still coming in, so it's really hard to pin down at this point -- but at least half the money is in the form of loans. How do you justify calling that donor's conference a success, and yet hanging a veto threat over the Congress if they don't send you a straight grant package, instead of a package that includes loans?
MR. McCLELLAN: Keep in mind that a large portion of that was the World Bank and IMF funds. And by definition, those are lending institutions. That's the way they provide those resources. It's important that there was a significant commitment from the international community. And many nations who attended the donors conference, it's important that they provided significant resources to help the Iraqi people achieve a free, democratic and prosperous future. And that's an important step in and of itself.
The Iraqi people were saddled with a lot of debt from the previous regime, that was more interested in palace building and serving its own interests than it was in helping the Iraqi people by providing the type of infrastructure that they needed. And that's why we believe it's important that we should not burden the Iraqi people with additional debt. We'll also continue to discuss with countries the importance of not doing that, as well.
Q: Do you believe that these will remain loans, or is it the administration's --
MR. McCLELLAN: Are you talking about the wartime supplemental?
Q: No, I'm talking about the pledges. Or is it your feeling that down the road that maybe countries will be urged or, as you say, the World Bank and the IMF will be urged to turn these into straight grants? Is that really what you're counting on?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the World Bank and IMF, by definition, those are lending institutions, that's the way they're set up. As far as other countries, we'll continue to emphasize the importance of not burdening the Iraqi people with additional debt. And that's why we're also working with the international community to kind of restructure their previous debt that they received from the previous regime.
Q: Scott, back on the donors conference. The World Bank said $56 billion was needed. You got about $33 billion in loans, pledges, so on and so forth. That leaves a shortfall of about $20, $23 billion --
MR. McCLELLAN: And you'll see surplus revenues of about $5 billion a year coming in from oil production in Iraq. So that will get us very close. We're also continuing to talk with countries about additional ways that they can support those efforts.
Q: Okay. So the idea is oil revenue will make up most of the rest of the shortfall?
MR. McCLELLAN: That should make up a vast amount of the rest of the money.
Q: Scott, let me ask about the 9/11 commission, if I can. The President spoke of sensitive documents this morning. Why should the 9/11 commission not receive sensitive documents? How else are they supposed to do their job?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, there's a lot of ways to provide information that is needed to the 9/11 commission. We fully support their efforts. We have provided unprecedented cooperation to the commission, and unprecedented access for the commission. We have provided more than 2 million pages of documents. We have provided more than -- or nearly 100 administration officials for interviews. There have been, I think, nearly 300 interviews conducted -- I'm sorry, 100 administration officials who have provided briefings to the commission. The President has directed the administration to work closely and cooperatively with the commission, and that's what we will continue to do.
Q: I appreciate your reminder of what he has done --
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I think it's --
Q: -- but it's what he has not done is provided, for example, a copy of the presidential daily briefing. Isn't that the kind of thing --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, I think you need to address some of those questions to the commission about what we have and have not done. I think the commission has pointed out that we have been working very cooperatively with them, and our commitment is to continue to do that. But there are, obviously, in situations like this, always some highly sensitive or classified information that is involved. That's why we'll continue to discuss those issues with the commission in the spirit that I just mentioned. And that is a spirit of cooperation.
Q: But why are they not entitled to sensitive documents? Are you afraid they're going to betray them in some fashion?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, as I said, there's a lot of ways to provide information to the commission, and we will continue working with them in a cooperative way to make sure that they have the information they need to complete their work and meet the deadline that Congress created.
Q: Scott, what do you say to some members of the commission, though, like former Georgia Senator Max Cleland, who charges that the White House is trying to, as he puts it, "run out the clock here," that it is -- he says he believes its withholding classified information for purely political reasons.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, and we just sent out another memorandum to all heads of executive departments and agencies last week. And this was from Judge Gonzales, the President's General Counsel. In that memo it said: as you know, the President has a stated -- has stated a clear policy of support for the work of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks.
And on March 19th of this year, Chief of Staff Andrew Card sent a memorandum directing cooperation with the commission and requesting that they have people to work -- designated to work with the commission. And this memorandum goes on to point that: in the less than six months since the first document request was issued by the Commission in May 2003, the executive branch has produced or made available to the commission more than 2 million pages of documents, provided nearly 100 briefings, and facilitated nearly 300 interviews. It goes on to say: it is imperative that we see these strong efforts through to completion of the commission's work.
So we have been working with the understanding that they have a time line. We've been working quickly to get them the information that they need. And I think you'll see that we have provided unprecedented cooperation.
Q: Chairman Kean seems to imply in this interview in The New York Times that these remaining documents that they don't have are vital. Are you concerned that if you don't turn them over, that the White House will have the appearance of having something to hide?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, we are going to continue to work in a spirit of cooperation with the commission to resolve any of these remaining issues. And as I said, there's a lot of ways to provide the information needed by the commission to complete its work, and we'll continue to work closely with them as we move forward and help them work to get to the -- to complete their work.
Q: Scott, the President said last week General Boykin's comments didn't reflect his opinion or the views of the government. Does the President think that General Boykin needs to step down? And was that matter discussed today with Mr. Bremer?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, as you know, the Secretary of Defense has requested, at the request of General Boykin, an internal investigation. And so that's ongoing at this point. I think specific questions related to the general, you might want to direct to the Pentagon. But the President has made it very clear that he flat out disagrees with any notion that the war on terrorism has anything to do with religion. The war on terrorism is about cold-blooded killers who have no regard for innocent life. And he has made it very clear that Islam is a religion that teaches peace. And the President will continue to make those views known.
Q: And could I just follow? Did Mr. Bremer suggest in any way that they're girding for additional attacks throughout the Ramadan season?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that there have been advisories sent out both from -- well, from our appropriate authorities, both in the region, as well as the State Department, about any concerns in the current alert level and current threats that are posed. And they will continue to keep people informed about steps they need to take. But, obviously, people need to continue to remain vigilant.
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Les.
Q: Can you -- a two-part. Can you assure us that none of the money paid by U.S. taxpayers to help rebuild Iraq will go to pay Iraqi debts to France and Germany?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, in terms of past debt, we are working with the international community to restructure those debts. And that's what we will continue to do.
What's the second part of your question?
Q: The President's proclamation that marriage is between a man and a woman is believed in strongly by many Episcopalians who, if they withhold contributions to bishops who do not believe this, they risk losing their church property. And my question, does the President believe that the U.S. Constitution's promise of free exercise of religion should not allow confiscation of church property by Episcopal bishops who promote or engage in sodomy or who, in one case, denied the existence of God?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that those are matters that the church will resolve, the Episcopal Church will resolve. You need to address those --
Q: Doesn't he believe in free exercise of religion, Scott?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'd address those to the Episcopal Church.
Q: Scott, when you look at Iraq, you have these constant incidents of violence -- not just in Baghdad, but the -- but the smaller, constant attacks in various parts of the country. Terrorism doesn't occur in a vacuum. Is the President concerned at all that the ordinary Iraqi people seem to be either, if not tolerating this, turning their eyes away against possible terrorists in their midst? I don't mean people joining the civil defense or the army, I'm talking about the man in the street. People can't just operate without being seen by others.
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't agree with that premise. I think the vast majority of the Iraqi people want a free, peaceful and prosperous future. And that's why the Iraqi people are working more and more with us to find these killers and bring them to justice. And that's why we'll continue to work to improve the human intelligence on the ground, our military commanders will continue to do that.
But I think if you hear from the Iraqi people, themselves, they will say that they want us to stay and complete our work. And that's exactly what we will do.
Q: Are you concerned that there might be an impression starting to build among the American people that if these attacks are going on -- they see the demonstrations against us, and so forth -- that the Iraqis really don't care, they don't want us there, so why the heck should we put our kids out there --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I disagree with that. I think the Iraqi people do want us there to help them realize a better future after 30 years of oppression, after 30 years under a very brutal regime. The Iraqi people see a better day coming, and I think that the overall majority of the Iraqi people appreciate our efforts and appreciate the support of the international community in helping them achieve a free, democratic and prosperous future.
I'll take a couple more, and then I've got to go.
Q: The meeting this morning with the Secretary of Defense there and two top generals certainly had the look of a council of war. It also wasn't on the schedule -- the President's schedule that you released on Friday. Was this called in reaction to the Al Rasheed attack yesterday?
MR. McCLELLAN: No. We update our schedule as things are confirmed and scheduled. And we were working on this on the heels of the donors conference. And that's the reason we were scheduling it in the first place.
Q: When was it actually set? When did you decide --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think it was finalized maybe very late Friday or sometime Saturday. I think late Friday.
Q: Did the President demand some answers from --
MR. McCLELLAN: And then we put out the daily schedule the day ahead and then that's when we updated it for you all.
Q: Did the President want some answers from the officials who were there about the security situation and why, for example, an attack --
MR. McCLELLAN: He receives constant updates about the progress we are making in Iraq and about the security situation in Iraq. And so he was able to receive further updates this morning from some of those officials who are in Iraq and best equipped to brief him on the situation on the ground.
Q: Did he specifically ask how these attacks -- the most recent attacks could happen?
MR. McCLELLAN: They talked about the security situation.
Q: On the wartime supplemental, does the administration support including in a final bill a provision that would fund a tanker leasing deal for Boeing that has fallen under criticism both by former OMB Director Mitch Daniels as being too costly, as well as by the GAO, which has said that this particular arrangement does not meet thorough accounting standards?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think, one, the Air Force and the OMB have reviewed this issue thoroughly. I think we've already seen that we've secured significant savings from the initial estimates. There is an urgent need to upgrade our tanker capability, and that's why we are working to -- with Congress to meet this important national security need while making sure that our taxpayers are getting the best value for their dollars.
Q: According to one Air Force study, they concluded that new planes are not needed until after 2010, and that because of the way this arrangement was made, it's actually a purchase in disguise, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, I think that we've worked to meet -- make sure that an urgent need was met -- an urgent national security need -- and that taxpayers are getting the best values. So that's -- the Air Force -- both the Air Force and the OMB looked at this thoroughly and reviewed these matters and worked with members of Congress to address this and make sure that the taxpayers were getting good value for their dollars, as we meet this important national security need.
And with that, I've got to run, and we'll see you tomorrow.
END 1:15 P.M. EST
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