The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 12, 2002

Press Gaggle by Scott Mcclellan
Crawford Elementary School
Crawford, Texas

12:45 P.M. CDT

MR. McCLELLAN: Good morning, Crawford gagglers. Let me start by giving a quick read-out of what I know about the President's day so far. Then I'm going to talk a little bit about tomorrow's forum. I have a few announcements and then you all can fire away.

The President went on a three-mile run this morning. Then he had his usual briefings, followed by his regularly scheduled NSC meeting. Then he held a staff meeting with some of the senior staff that is out here, where primarily they talked about various domestic issues, as well as he reviewed and discussed information for tomorrow's economic forum.

As the President said in his radio address on Saturday, the President -- he looks forward to participating in tomorrow's discussions and meeting with people on the front lines of the American economy; people from -- working Americans from communities all across the country.

The President talked about in his radio address, when he was talking about the economic forum, he talked about the steps we have taken to help get our economy growing, from tax cuts to trade promotion authority to corporate accounting reform. And he also talked about how there's more that we must do, from passing terrorism insurance to protecting workers' pensions to passing legislation that will make us more energy independent, among other things.

But the recent economic indicators are encouraging, and we are on a path to sustained economic growth. And when I talk about the recent economic indicators, I'm talking about what we're seeing now, which is strong productivity growth, rising real wages, low and stable inflation, low interest rates, lower taxes. But, again, the President is not going to be satisfied, as we have said, until every American that wants a job can find a job.

So the President looks forward tomorrow so he can discuss economic growth directly with the workers and small investors who are the backbone of our economy. The White House has worked with the Cabinet to invite more than 240 working Americans with front line experience, expertise and diverse points of view from at least 40 states. This includes, as we've pointed out, labor officials, workers, farmers, small investors, academics and others who bring experience and diverse points of views with them to the forum.

And we've also talked about how the President believes the best solutions are found outside of Washington, and that's why he wants to hear directly from working Americans and small investors, who are the backbone of our economy. The forum will include at least 14 hours of detailed policy discussions.

Now, let me make a few announcements about tomorrow, then I'll be glad to take your questions.

For the President's travel pool, everybody needs to gather at 7:00 a.m., at the Student Life Center at Baylor University. Gather by the podium in the filing center; Leslie Beyer will be there. The Vice President's travel pool will gather at 7:30 a.m. at the Waco Hilton lobby. They will be meeting Adrienne Cisneros there. The press filing center is located in the Student Life Center at Baylor University. Parking is available outside the center and it is now open and will open tomorrow at 6:00 a.m., and will remain open until 11:00 p.m. tomorrow night.

You will need separate credentials for access to the filing center. You can pick up the credentials at the Student Life Center today between 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Show them you're White House press to redeem your credential. If you do not have a White House press pass, any other press identification and photo should suffice; but we strongly recommend that you pick up your credential today instead of waiting until tomorrow morning.

A schedule for tomorrow: at 9:00 a.m. the forum discussion panels will begin at Baylor Law School. This includes the eight forums, break-out policy discussions that we outlined the other day: small investors and retirement security; economic recovery and job creation; corporate responsibility; health care security; small business and smarter regulation; education and workers; trade; technology and innovation.

The forum discussion panels end around 10:30 a.m.m, then the plenary session at Baylor University Jones Concert Hall will begin at 11:00 a.m. That is open press. At 12:30 p.m. there is a participants luncheon, which is closed press. Then we have some briefings in the afternoon. At 2:00 p.m., OMB Director Mitch Daniels will brief the media at the press filing center. At 2:30 p.m., Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and Commerce Secretary Don Evans will brief the media at the press filing center. And then at 3:30 p.m., Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman and USTR Ambassador Robert Zoellick will brief the media at the filing center, as well.

Later today, we will release a final media guide -- we released the preliminary guide on Friday, I believe -- and this will include the full list of participants. The economic -- our economic forum will be accepting requests for individual one-on-one interviews with members of the Cabinet and other participants attending the forum. And to request an interview, you should contact the White House Media Affairs in Waco, at 254-710-7550, and we will do our best to accommodate you there.

One other announcement, then I'm glad to take some questions. The President will welcome Estonian Prime Minister Siim Kallas to Washington on September 4, 2002. The visit provides an opportunity for the President to recognize the great progress that Estonia has made over the last decade in implementing a free market democratic transformation. The United States appreciates Estonia's support in the war on terrorism.

And with that, I'm happy to take some questions.

Q Scott, is there one overarching message for the forum tomorrow?

Q You might repeat the questions, because I'm sure a lot of people won't hear them.

MR. McCLELLAN: Say it louder, I don't want to repeat every single question.

Q Is there one overarching message tomorrow?

MR. McCLELLAN: Overarching message tomorrow. Well, again, I think what you're going to see is that -- and go back to the President's radio address and, in fact, I refer you back to that, where the President talked about is there are several steps we have taken to get our economy growing and to strengthen our economy; but there's more that we need to do.

And I went through some of those issues a minute ago; the President went through them in his radio address, as well. In addition, this is an opportunity, as the President said in his radio address, to generate ideas to strengthen our economy and make workers and investors more secure. And that he looks forward to participating in discussions and sharing our findings with the American people.

So we want to hear from those people that are on the front line of the American economy across the country. And I think you'll see, when we put out the list later today, that this does represent a diversity of views and it represents working Americans from all across the country.

Q He's going to be in about four sessions for 20 minutes each. Does he feel as though he'll have enough time to --

Q Louder.

Q He'll be in about four sessions for 20 minutes each. Does he feel that he'll have enough time to really hear new ideas, debate, maybe even have some arguments?

MR. McCLELLAN: Absolutely. But keep in mind that there are also Cabinet members and the others that are chairing the panels will also be able to report back to the President on further discussions that they had at the economic forum. But this is a chance where the President -- and the Vice President, as well -- the Vice President will be able to update the President on his sessions, as well.

Q How did you compile the list of participants, and why are there -- how many Democrats are coming?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, as I said, you know, we worked with the Cabinet members, or Cabinet offices and what we wanted to do was get a representative sampling of people from across the country, in communities all across America that represent those people who are on the front lines of our economy: workers, farmers, truck drivers, teachers and -- we looked for personal experience, expertise. I don't know that I could tell you party affiliation, because it wasn't a factor.

Q Do you know how many Democrats --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you'll have the list later today and you'll be able to look through it. I mean, I think there's been some information reported by some of your colleagues and some information put out by other organizations, as well. And that's why I said I think you're going to see that it reflects a diversity of views. But that was not a consideration in selecting the participants.

Q Scott, would it be fair to say that basically the President and his economic team have no real ideas on what next to do, and therefore they're trying to get other ideas?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, absolutely not. In fact, one of the most important things we can do is what the President has been focusing on and what he said in his radio address, is that Congress needs to pass terrorism insurance. It's hurting our construction sector and costing jobs. That is an important step that Congress can take immediately to continue making sure that we're moving on the path of economic growth. And protecting workers' pensions -- the President has outlined specific steps we can take to better protect workers' pensions, and make sure that their retirement savings are secure.

So there are a number of steps -- the energy legislation as well, promoting energy independence, making the tax cuts permanent. So we've outlined a number of steps. But this is -- the President often travels around the country to talk directly with the American people, families and workers and others. And this is an opportunity to bring those people together to talk about our current economic situation, as well as how we go forward from here. And he wants to hear their ideas as well.

So I'm sure it will generate some ideas from these people, and the President looks forward to hearing those ideas.

Q So it's not a public relations ploy at all?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, in fact I think I just laid out that it's really a serious policy discussion. We're going to have 14 hours -- at least 14 hours of detailed policy discussions. We're going to have eight policy breakout sessions that will delve into the policy details of each of those different areas that are critical to economic growth. That's really the best way to break people into groups, smaller groups and listen to their ideas and get a sense of where they feel things are and where we need to go.

Q How did the President decide which of the panel forums he -- the breakout sessions he would attend and which he would not?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know if there's a specific -- I think they wanted to make sure that the President and Vice President both covered all the different forums. I'll see if there's any more to it than that, but I'm not sure that there is.

Q So one of the two of them will be in every single session?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's right.

Q They won't do any jointly, nothing jointly?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q They're not going to attend any jointly?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that you've got the plenary session and then the luncheon. But other than that, they'll be covering the different breakout sessions.


Q Scott, who is paying for all the travel of these individuals? Presumably, the CEOs and what not will be flying in on their own, but who is paying for the travel of these average working Americans?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think -- actually, let me double check that. I think that I've heard reports that some -- we tried to cover the cost for some, but others paid their own way. Let me try to find out more information on that. I'll be around all day.

Q Is there an example -- or an estimate of overall price for this whole forum?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't have it. I'll look into it, but I don't have it.


Q -- announcement today that Iraq is not going to accept weapons inspectors. A lot of European countries and the U.N. and Arab countries have said that they wanted the U.S. not to take any action because Iraq might be willing. Now that they are not willing, does the White House, does the President believe that the United States has the green light now to go ahead with military plans? Do you feel vindicated over the Iraq cynicism on this issue?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I saw the --

Q What's the question?

MR. McCLELLAN: It's regarding Iraq, the Information Minister's comments about inspectors coming into the country. Our position and the position of the international community is very clear. You heard the President's latest remarks on Saturday. There is nothing to really update you on beyond that. I mean, you're asking me to speculate, again, on some hypotheticals. The President, as he said, hasn't set a timetable. He hasn't made any decisions. But, again, our position is very clear. The position of the international community is very clear. The regime in Baghdad needs to abide by the agreements it made.

Q Do you feel vindicated by Iraq's cynicism on this issue?

MR. McCLELLAN: In what -- vindicated? By the Information Minister's comments?

Q By their cynicism -- on again, off again, and not willing.

MR. McCLELLAN: The President addressed this on Saturday. I mean, any person that is trying to -- like Saddam, who is trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction, is a dangerous person. And the President said he would be deliberate and be patient, and that we would consult with our friends. We have been consulting with Congress and consulting with our friends and allies, and we'll continue to do so.

But our views are very clear in terms of what the regime in Baghdad needs to do immediately. There's no discussion to be had on that.


Q Another Iraq question. Iraq's state controlled newspaper says that the President's campaign to seek a regime change is in trouble after a rise in domestic and international opposition to any U.S. attack. Is that --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you, Steve.

Q Iraq's newspaper says that the campaign to seek a regime change is in trouble after a rise in domestic and international opposition. Do you see the campaign as in trouble -- to seek a regime change in Iraq?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's our longstanding policy, is one of regime change. You know, there were some meetings on -- over the Friday and Saturday, part of our ongoing efforts to support groups that are in opposition to the regime in Baghdad.


Q Does the President intend to name a mediator in the baseball labor situation -- call in players or management, or take any other steps?

MR. McCLELLAN: We have not been involved in those discussions. But let me just say that it would be very unfortunate and terrible for baseball fans everywhere if the parties are unable to resolve their differences. And the people who would be hurt are America's baseball fans. And that would be a terrible thing to have happen.


Q Scott, the President in nearly every speech says that the fundamentals of the economy are sound. Does he feel that that message has not gotten through, and that's why he needs to hold an economic forum like this?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, remember what I just went through. One, the President -- making sure that our economy is growing and continuing to -- always taking steps to strengthen our economy is always a top priority for the President. It's one of the three big goals that he has laid out, from winning the war on terrorism to protecting the homeland to strengthening our economy.

And so he's -- the President focuses on our economy every day. And he's going to remain concerned as long as there is one person who wants a job that cannot find a job. But we will continue to reiterate that part -- and that's what I talked about at the beginning here, is that what we are seeing is that the economic indicators are strong, from strong productivity growth -- you had the Labor Department put out figures on Friday which showed strong, 4.7 percent productivity rate over the past year -- to rising wages, to low and stable inflation and low interest rates and lower taxes.

Q What about stagnant wages?

MR. McCLELLAN: We are on a path to sustained economic growth, but there is more that we must do, as the President said in his radio address.

Q What about stagnant wages? You mentioned --

Q Scott, Morgan Stanley today just readjusted their growth projection for the rest of this year and all of next year -- both for the United States and the world. They've just downgraded them pretty considerably -- I don't remember the numbers exactly. But, I mean, if all of these things that you're ticking off are contributing a strong economy, why is Morgan Stanley reaching that conclusion?

MR. McCLELLAN: I can't speak for Morgan Stanley. You'd have to talk to them about why -- I haven't seen those numbers, but --

Q Earlier you said -- outside of Washington, many of the people who know what they're doing -- I mean, the growth projections are slipping on Wall Street --

MR. McCLELLAN: The President believes the real solutions are found outside of Washington. That's what I said earlier. And that's why we're visiting with these working Americans from all across the country. But, again, the President talked about this in his radio address as well. When he came into office, we were beginning a recession. September 11th came, and the attacks of September 11th hurt our economy.

But what we've seen over the last year -- the first couple of quarters -- we've seen our economy growing. And that's why we need to take -- he believes that we need to take additional steps, because there are still Americans out there who want a job and cannot find one. So he remains concerned about our economy, but believes it is heading in the right direction.

Thank you, all.

END 1:03 P.M. CDT

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