For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 30, 2002
Press Gaggle with Scott Mcclellan - Crawford, Texas
Crawford Elementary School
1:30 P.M. CDT
MR. MCCLELLAN: Good afternoon, everybody. Let me start by making some brief remarks on the announcement by Major League Baseball and the Players Association, and I'll be glad to take a few questions on that. And then I'd like to go into some announcements, talk about the President's day and take additional questions at that point.
I just recently spoke with the President about the announcement by Major League Baseball and the Players Association, and like all Americans, the President is pleased that owners and players have come together to resolve their differences and avert a strike. This is the time when Americans everywhere are looking forward to the pennant races heating up, they're looking forward to the march toward the playoffs and the World Series. And the President is pleased that the American people and baseball fans everywhere will be able to continue participating in our national pastime.
And with that, I'm glad to take a few questions on the baseball strike.
Q How important is the national pastime at a time of national --
MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, I think baseball is our national pastime, and it does help to bring Americans together. It's an important sport in the American lifestyle, in American society.
Q -- (inaudible.)
MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, this is a time of national unity on a number of fronts, and it's a time when Americans are coming together and united, and baseball gives Americans an opportunity to celebrate the American spirit and enjoy the game.
Q Scott, can you confirm that the President did not pick up the phone and talk to either side in the negotiations in the final hours?
MR. MCCLELLAN: That's right, the White House was not involved, Mark. Again, the President was involved as an avid baseball fan, and he is pleased, like all Americans, that the owners and players came together, as he urged, and resolved their differences and have averted a strike. This is good not only for the future of baseball, but for the country, as well.
Q Does he believe that his assertion that he would be furious may have promoted the settlement?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, he made his feelings known, but I think even more importantly, baseball fans all across the country made their feelings known. And he was one of those baseball fans.
Q How was he informed, Scott? Was he on the ranch watching the coverage --
MR. MCCLELLAN: I didn't ask him specifically. He had just returned from doing some work out on the ranch where he's working around the property, and I spoke to him shortly after Major League Baseball and the Players Association made their announcement.
Q Is he planning to talk to either side --
MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, with any of his calls, I'll do my best to keep you updated if he does, if there's anything to announce.
Anything else on the baseball? All right, let me make a few announcements, talk about the President's day. The President had his usual intelligence briefings this morning. He then taped his radio address, which I'll talk more about in a minute. And as I mentioned to Kelly a minute ago, the President did some work around the ranch.
A couple of announcements. One, earlier today, HHS and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services today announced that they have issued the final regulation for drug discount cards endorsed by Medicare that will help people who are covered by Medicare buy their prescription drugs at lower cost and obtain other pharmacy services. This is, as we have mentioned before -- if you will recall, there was a public comment period that we went through, and so we made some important improvements to this program.
This is an important step to immediately help seniors with rising prescription drug costs by giving them immediate relief. Seniors have waited long enough, and this will provide some much needed relief while we continue to urge Congress to move forward on the President's plan for modernizing Medicare, including a prescription drug benefit. So I just wanted to make you aware that that was announced earlier today by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The radio address -- later today we will have an embargoed copy for you, as well as a factsheet and a CD-ROM with a guidebook. In the radio address tomorrow to the nation, the President is going to call upon all Americans to take part in what he is calling a September of Service, by renewing, expanding or establishing a commitment to doing good. This is a comprehensive initiative, as you will see later, to encourage Americans to serve something greater than themselves, as the President has talked about. And he looks forward to this as another step to help Americans respond to the evil we experienced on September 11th with acts of good. And he's asking all Americans to serve their neighbors and their nation. And that is part of the USA Freedom Corps office that is putting this out, putting the factsheet and the guidebook out all across the country.
Remind me before I finish to do the week ahead, as well. And with that, I'm happy to take other questions.
Q Scott, on presidential fundraising, the President has now set records, far eclipsing Bill Clinton's fundraising ability, or at least his fundraising totals in the first off-year election in the Clinton administration. He surpassed Clinton in the year 2000. as well. How does the President feel about that, given that he in so many ways emphasized that he's not like Bill Clinton?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, John, I don't think, first of all, that we keep any running tally. The President is obviously going to do what he can to help elect people who will help him implement his agenda and his priorities, from winning the war on terrorism to protecting the homeland, to making sure we continue on a path of sustained economic growth. And so the President is pleased to help people who will work with him to implement that agenda. But again, I don't think it's something we've spent any time thinking about.
The President, obviously, wants to make sure that the House stays Republican, and do what he can to elect a Republican Senate, as well, so that we can move forward on his agenda. There are a number of important priorities we need to continue to get done.
Q The Vice President's speech yesterday seemed to have a softer or a different tone than Monday, and he sort of eliminated or changed some of the things he was saying when it comes to weapons inspections. Was there a sense after Monday's speech about maybe getting the message out that the President again has not made up his mind? I mean, was there a tone -- a change in tone between speeches?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, I think, again, this goes back to this is part of our ongoing discussion with the American public about the threats posed by Saddam and his regime, and the dangerous threats we face from the regime in Iraq. The President has made it very clear that he has made no decision, and I can reiterate that today -- he has made no decision. He has also made very clear that we are going to continue consulting with Congress, with our friends and allies. Congress has an important role to play, and we look forward to participating in the hearings, as the Vice President noted.
But as far as the issue of inspections, we've made our position very clear. The State Department has reiterated, as well, that it's not just -- this is not about inspections, this is about disarmament; this is about the continuing threat that the regime in Iraq poses not only to others in the Middle East, but the world and the United States, as well. And so, given the fact that the Iraqi regime has shown no indication that it has disarmed, or that it intends to disarm, unfettered inspections alone will not guarantee disarmament. But the Iraqi government, the Iraqi regime needs to abide by the obligations it made after the Persian Gulf War.
Q How do you explain, though, that the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. earlier this week seemed to signal that if inspectors could get back inside the country and do have much better access, that that would be a good thing? It seems like different signals from the Vice President --
MR. MCCLELLAN: Like I said, I just said we made it clear the Iraqi regime needs to abide by its obligations, they need to open up inspections. There's no room for negotiation, there's no room for discussion. They need to do so. But again, the goal of the United States and the goal of the international community is verified Iraqi disarmament. And inspections, as I said the other day, are a means to that end.
But again, if, at the same time they open up to inspections, the regime actively works to conceal weapons of mass destruction and materiel and programs, then we have not guaranteed anything. So we're going to continue working -- go ahead.
Q Britain has said it would consider setting a deadline for Iraq to comply with the U.N. mandate. Is that something the United States would also consider?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, I saw those reports, but I haven't seen or heard of any official announcement on that. Again, the United States position is that the Iraqi regime needs to abide by its obligations. There is no room for negotiation or discussion. They need to do so, and do so now.
Q Scott, does the President have any reason to believe that the Secretary of State is not on board his Iraq policy?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Actually, the administration has been very consistent in what we have said throughout about Iraq, that our policy is longstanding, it is one of regime change. And the President and Vice President both made that very clear to the American people and will continue to do so as we move forward.
Q But not the Secretary of State?
MR. MCCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q The Secretary of State, is he on board?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Oh, I think the State Department has been addressing this issue recently, just like we have. And again, the view of the administration is united and one in the same, we're singing from the same songbook.
Q Someone close to the Secretary is saying that the Secretary's position is you can't have military action unless you absolutely have support of allies.
MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, you're making an assumption has been made. No decisions have been made. And certainly, as the President has said, that when it comes to congressional hearings and advice from many people with expertise and experience, he welcomes that. That's part of the healthy discussion that is ongoing about how we move forward when it comes to Iraq. The President is keeping all options open.
Q Right, but Secretary Rumsfeld even said, look, unanimity is not the key to making the right decision. But Secretary Powell apparently is saying we can't do military action unless we have a coalition together to back --
MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, again, the President hasn't made a decision about any particular course of action. And that's assuming he's made a decision about a particular course of action. Again, our policy is one of regime change, and when it comes to that -- achieving that -- the President is keeping his options open.
Q Scott, why hasn't the President addressed Iraq or Saddam by name in recent speeches? And is he likely to use his U.N. appearance to further explain his policy?
MR. MCCLELLAN: I think, one, I'm not going to -- that speech is still a little ways off, and we'll have more to say about that as we get closer to the date of that speech. But the President has made his views very clear, and he's continued to talk about the threats we face in the 21st century and talked about how we need to address those threats, as well.
Q Yes, the European Union won its WTO permission to impose $4 billion in sanctions. Does the President support initiatives in Congress that would change the tax laws to go back and basically get rid of this tax break?
MR. MCCLELLAN: I think Ambassador Zoellick addressed this earlier by expressing the administration's disappointment. And he also made it very clear, and the President has made it clear, that the administration is going to work with Congress to fully comply with our obligations when it comes to the World Trade Organization. And so -- and the Ambassador also pointed out that he believed we would achieve that and that it would make the decision moot, as he said when the decision was announced.
Q Scott, maybe you mentioned the week ahead -- or are you going to release the week ahead?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Yes. We -- did you have one before the week ahead, Olivier? Okay.
Q The President spoke to Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi on August 28th.
MR. MCCLELLAN: That's correct.
Q How much of a readout can you give of that, apart from the North Korea information? Did they discuss anything else?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, the Prime Minister did call the President to discuss his diplomatic efforts, and I think it was a brief conversation. The President appreciated the Prime Minister's advance notice. And as with other recent efforts to address concerns about North Korea, we support the Prime Minister's diplomatic efforts, and we hope it will lead to an early resolution of the important issues between the two countries and contribute to North Korea's becoming a responsible member of the international community.
The United States and Japan share concerns about broad issues involving North Korea and we look forward to continuing close coordination in dealing with those issues.
This was about Prime Minister Koizumi and a phone conversation they had on Wednesday. That was on Wednesday.
Q Your readout doesn't have anything other than the North Korea --
MR. MCCLELLAN: I think the purpose of the call was as I just mentioned, and that's the information that I have.
Q Scott, on the week ahead, we haven't seen it, but I assume he's going to meet with congressional leaders. Is he eager to meet with congressional leaders to get this --
MR. MCCLELLAN: Yes. Let me get to the weekend, and then if you have anything additional from that.
On Monday, the President will travel to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to participate in a Labor Day Carpenters Union picnic.
And beginning Tuesday, the President will have a number of meetings with congressional leaders to focus on the congressional agenda and focus on getting important priorities accomplished with the remaining time left before the elections. There are no public events scheduled for Tuesday at this time.
On Wednesday, the President will meet with the Prime Minister of Estonia in the Oval Office. Coverage will be stills at the top of the meeting.
And on Thursday, the President will depart the White House in the morning for travel to Louisville, Kentucky, and South Bend, Indiana. In Louisville, the President will participate in a roundtable with small business leaders, make remarks at a welcome event, and attend a Northup for Congress luncheon. In South Bend, Indiana, the President will make remarks at a welcome event before attending a Chocola for Congress reception.
On Friday, September 6, the President will travel to Minneapolis, Minnesota, to participate in a roundtable and make remarks on welfare reform.
MR. MCCLELLAN: Minnesota? No, I don't believe so.
Q What about the weekend?
MR. MCCLELLAN: This weekend? No, I don't have next weekend anything certain at this time. But this weekend, everybody keep in mind that it will be a regular weekend, like he was at Camp David or anywhere else. Our duty officers will be on call, so go through the White House operator, track them down if you need anything, unless it's an extreme emergency, and then call me at the football game. (Laughter.)
At this point, I don't expect the President to do anything off the ranch, but I can't rule anything out if he decides he wants to do something, so we'll keep you posted. We'll try to keep you posted well ahead of time, if there is.
Q But anything off the ranch, of course, you would --
MR. MCCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q If he did anything off the ranch you would be there, right?
MR. MCCLELLAN: No. I don't always go with him if he plays golf. Okay --
Q Scott, on those questions, on the priorities is an energy bill. What is the President going to do; is he going to make a more forceful case for an energy bill this fall? And would he veto a bill that doesn't have ANWR in it?
MR. MCCLELLAN: Okay, last question. Absolutely, he -- I'm actually glad you brought that up --
Q What was the question?
MR. MCCLELLAN: This was on the energy bill, just broadly, about getting that done.
With Congress returning on Tuesday, the President looks forward to getting back to Washington, D.C. and getting things done. And that means focusing on key priorities he outlined earlier in the year and has been talking about throughout the year and urging Congress to act on.
We need to finish the congressional action to create a Department of Homeland Security. We need to continue to focus on winning the war on terrorism. We need to continue to work on the President's initiatives, additional proposals to strengthen our economy and sustain economic growth. That includes acting on terrorism insurance; that includes acting on pension protections, and any other additional measures.
At the same time, part of that sustaining economic growth, it is important also to -- it's important for the Congress to come together and pass a comprehensive energy plan. And the President urges them to act on that in the remaining time that is left. That is important not only to our national security, but to our economic security, as well. And so that will be an important priority the President will remain focused on, as well as the others.
Q Any response to the second part, about whether he would veto it if it didn't have ANWR?
MR. MCCLELLAN: If what?
Q If ANWR is not part of it?
MR. MCCLELLAN: The President, as you know -- the House version included it and the Senate version didn't, and the President has continued urging Congress to pass a comprehensive energy plan that includes allowing for a small portion of exploration in ANWR in an environmentally responsible way. So that is something he will continue to work -- will continue to work with Congress on. And it's important that they act on that energy plan.
END 1:50 P.M. CDT