White House Daily Briefing, May 7
|Friday May 7,
THE WHITE HOUSE
PRESS GAGGLE BY SCOTT McCLELLAN
Aboard Air Force One
9:59 A.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: All right, good morning, everybody. The President taped his radio address before we left. Then he participated in his usual briefings. Our first stop will be in Dubuque, Iowa, where the President will make remarks. The remarks will focus on the economy today. Then the President will participate in an "Ask President Bush" event in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin.
And on the way from Prairie du Chien to La Crosse, the President will participate in some media interviews with the Quad City Times, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and the Green Bay Press Gazette. And then he will make remarks at a La Crosse, Wisconsin rally. Then he will go to Camp David for the weekend.
That's what I've got on the schedule. I will give you the week ahead at the end of this. I'm glad to take your questions now.
QUESTION: What does the President expect Secretary Rumsfeld to say today to lawmakers?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you're going to hear from Secretary Rumsfeld here shortly.
Q: What does the President think the Secretary needs to say?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that -- well, Secretary Rumsfeld will be speaking for himself here, shortly, so you'll hear directly from him. I'll just -- I'm not going to try to preview what the Secretary is going to say. You will hear from him shortly.
Q: Do you know whether the President gave him guidance on what he should tell lawmakers, and, by extension, the nation?
MR. McCLELLAN: Whether he gave him guidance? I think Secretary Rumsfeld knows what he wants to say to members of Congress today. And, again, I just don't want to get into previewing his remarks. I think that they are remarks that the Secretary worked on.
Q: Did the Secretary run his opening statement by the White House and by the President?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know what kind of conversations there have been. I don't think there was any detailed discussions about it, if that's what you're asking.
Q: Has the President spoken to Secretary Rumsfeld since yesterday?
MR. McCLELLAN: He spoke to him yesterday.
MR. McCLELLAN: It was later in the day.
Q: What do you make of the unemployment numbers, 5.6 percent is down, 288,000 jobs --
MR. McCLELLAN: Today's employment report is further confirmation that our economy is strong and continues to grow stronger, and that the tax relief the President advocated and passed is working. We've seen the strongest three quarters of growth in nearly 20 years. We've now seen that more than 1.1 million new jobs have been created since last August. The unemployment rate is down to 5.6 percent, well below the averages of the '70s, '80s and '90s. We've seen some revised numbers on manufacturing jobs. We've seen three months now of new jobs being created in the manufacturing sector.
So today's employment report is, along with other economic indicators, confirms that our economy continues to grow strong.
Q: Scott, can you talk about Condi Rice's visit with the Palestinian Prime Minister?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I don't think the exact date has been set. I think they are likely to meet early the week of the 17th of May.
Q: Early --
MR. McCLELLAN: Early the week of the 17th, when Dr. Rice is in Europe. The President made it very clear yesterday that he wants to work to expand our dialogue with the Palestinians. We have always been in contact with parties -- all parties in the region, including the Palestinians. We have a real opportunity -- the Palestinians have a real opportunity before them to take steps that can help create the institutions necessary for a viable and democratic Palestinian state to exist. And it's important that leaders in the region seize this opportunity to create a viable and democratic Palestinian state.
The proposal by Prime Minister Sharon was a bold proposal that can help get us jump-started again on the road map and moving toward the two-state vision. And it's important for Palestinian leaders to step forward and work to create the institutions necessary for a Palestinian state to exist.
Q: Scott, why do people only get to attend these campaign events if they -- if they state that they plan on voting for the President in this election?
MR. McCLELLAN: You need to talk to the campaign about who is invited to the events. I'll leave that to the campaign to discuss.
Q: Is the President interested in these events, in talking to voters that he might not have already convinced?
MR. McCLELLAN: Look, I think that you're seeing great energy and enthusiasm for the President and the agenda we have worked to implement, and for his vision going forward. And, again, I'll let the campaign speak to these events. These are campaign events and I'll let them speak to the specifics about who was invited.
Q: Can we talk to -- I know there's a lot of them on board.
MR. McCLELLAN: They'll be available on the ground. They'll be available on the ground.
Q: Could you bring them back, or could they --
MR. McCLELLAN: They'll be available on the ground.
Q: Can you talk about who's on the plane? You've got Grassley --
MR. McCLELLAN: Senator Grassley, Congressman Nussle and Congressman Leach.
Q: Can you spell the second one?
MR. McCLELLAN: N-u-s-s-l-e.
Q: Nussle and --
MR. McCLELLAN: Leach.
Q: Can you talk at all about the politics of these two states and why you're going through there?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, these are campaign events for today. The campaign people will be glad to talk to you about the campaign aspects of it. Obviously, he's going to be talking about -- the plans are to talk about -- previously, it was planned to talk about the economy, and that's what the President will be talking about today.
Q: Is there any doubt in your mind that he'll --
MR. McCLELLAN: The stakes are very high in this election. There are many great challenges that we continue to face, and it's important that we move forward with strong and steady leadership to address these challenges. And there are some clear choices about how we proceed forward. But, again, look, the campaign will talk to you about those issues. These are campaign events. I'll talk to you about other issues.
Q: Will he cite the new economic numbers today?
MR. McCLELLAN: I expect he will.
Q: Has the President been briefed on a plan to have an outside investigative agency examine the --
MR. McCLELLAN: I've seen the reports that Secretary Rumsfeld may be -- may have some announcements at his congressional hearings. And, again, let's let Secretary Rumsfeld testify and then I'll be glad to talk about his remarks after that.
Q: So his announcements will not be a surprise to the White House?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q: So any announcements in Secretary Rumsfeld's remarks will not be a surprise to you or the White House?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, let's just let his testimony take place and you'll hear from him directly. Then I'll be glad to talk about it after that.
Q: We don't like to -- (laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: I understand you all want me to preview his remarks, but I think it's best to let it take place.
Q: But, Scott --
Q: But that's something --
MR. McCLELLAN: Look, the President made it clear yesterday, Secretary Rumsfeld is a strong and capable Secretary of Defense who has served very ably during times of war. And the President greatly appreciates his service. And I'm sure you will hear from him exactly -- you know, some of the things you have heard from the President.
We are not going to let the shameful acts of a few diminish the honorable and courageous actions of the many. Our men and women in the military are serving and sacrificing for a very important cause. And as the President talked about yesterday, our men and women in the military are performing thousands of acts of decency and kindness on a daily basis in Iraq, to help the Iraqi people realize a brighter future. And we should always keep that in mind.
Q: Without getting into the specifics of what Rumsfeld is going to say, did Rumsfeld brief the President on his testimony yesterday, in their conversation?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q: The President's conversation with Rumsfeld yesterday, was that --
MR. McCLELLAN: They talk on a regular basis. I don't get into the habit of reading out those conversations.
Q: Is the President going to talk about Rumsfeld or the Iraqi prison thing at all today at these events?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he's got some interviews. I mean, the focus today in his remarks is primarily on the economy. He's got an "Ask the President" event, as well, so you'll hear from him.
Q: It will be important to hear from the President after Secretary Rumsfeld's testimony. We will all be waiting to hear his --
MR. McCLELLAN: The President has some interviews later today and he has some events today -- and I will be around, as well.
Q: Will those transcripts be available to us today?
MR. McCLELLAN: No.
MR. McCLELLAN: Those local interviews, that's up to them to release that information.
Q: Right. So it would be very good for the rest of us to have some comments from the President on this today.
MR. McCLELLAN: I hear what you have to say. He's got three events today and you all will be there to cover it.
Q: How about that Egyptian transcript from yesterday?
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me check the status. We should be getting that out today. It was about a half-hour interview and he covered a number of topics, from the Israeli-Palestinian issues, to the greater Middle East, to Iraq. So we'll get the transcript out to you all, we'll get it out to you later today.
Q: Yesterday the President referenced the Iraqi abuse story without being asked about it. Should we expect that to happen again today?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you're going to be there to cover his remarks, like I said, so let's let those remarks take place.
Look, he's made his -- he's very clear; and tomorrow's radio address, in fact, is on Iraq. But the President has been very clear in his views and he will continue to make it clear that we're not going to -- that we will take strong action to hold people accountable and punish those who are responsible for these shameful acts and take steps to make sure it doesn't happen again. That's what the President's focus is on, and that's where our focus should be.
Secretary Rumsfeld and the military launched investigations immediately after this came to light. They are continuing to pursue a series of investigations to address these matters. I expect you will hear more from Secretary Rumsfeld about the actions that the military has been taking and more about what we are learning. But they've taken a number of strong steps already to make sure this doesn't happen again.
Q: He's devoting his radio address to the prisoner scandal?
MR. McCLELLAN: It's on Iraq. You'll have his remarks later today, but I expect he will talk some about that. I expect it may be broader than just that.
Q: Thanks, Scott.
Q: Week ahead, you said.
Q: Week ahead, week ahead.
MR. McCLELLAN: Let's see, on Monday, the President will participate in a ceremony celebrating countries selected for the Millennium Challenge Account. Those countries were announced yesterday. That will be in the East Room at the White House. Then he will make remarks to the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots. And then the President will go to the Pentagon, where he will receive a military briefing from Secretary Rumsfeld and his military leaders. That was something that has been previously scheduled, he has done from time to time. I expect he'll receive an update on the global war on terrorism.
On Tuesday, we travel to Arkansas, where the President will make remarks on the No Child Left Behind Act, in Van Buren, Arkansas, at Butterfield Trail Junior High School.
And then on Wednesday, May 12th, the President will meet with the President of Angola in the Oval.
Q: The President of Angola?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. And then he will participate in a conversation on Reading First and No Child Left Behind at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda.
On Thursday, the President will make remarks to the American Conservative Union 40th Anniversary Banquet in Washington. And on Friday, the President attends a Victory 2004 luncheon in Bridgeton, Missouri, and makes remarks at the Concordia University commencement in Wisconsin. And then on Saturday, the President will make remarks at the Annual Peace Officers Memorial Service at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.
And a couple other things beyond next week. On Monday, May 17th, the President will go to Topeka, Kansas and make remarks at the Brown versus Board of Education National Historic Site grand opening. And on Wednesday, May 19th, the President will make remarks at the Sons of Italy Foundation's 16th Anniversary National Education and Leadership Awards in Washington, D.C. And on Saturday, May 29th, the President looks forward to making remarks at the National World War II Memorial dedication in Washington.
That's what I've got. Thank you, all.
THE PRESS: Thank you, Scott.
END 10:13 A.M. EDT
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