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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 5, 2003
Remarks by the Press Secretary to the Travel Pool
The Columbia Club
4:14 P.M. CDT
MR. McCLELLAN: The President will make a prime-time address to the nation this Sunday to talk to the American people about our ongoing war on terrorism, with a particular focus on our efforts in Iraq. The President believes this is a good time to talk to the American people about the progress we are making in our war -- ongoing war on terrorism and our needs going forward.
Q What time?
MR. McCLELLAN: At 8:30 p.m. Eastern.
Q The President believes this is a --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- good time to talk to the American people about the progress we are making in the war on terrorism and about our needs going forward.
Q -- talk about the war in Iraq?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I said the focus will -- there will be a focus on Iraq because Iraq is central to winning the war on terrorism.
Q Scott, will it be from the Oval?
MR. McCLELLAN: It will be from the White House, it won't be the Oval Office.
Q Is this in response to escalating violence there? Why the need for this now?
MR. McCLELLAN: That's a good question. During August -- and you may recall this from being in Crawford -- but during August the President spent a considerable amount of time talking to his national security team and military leaders about our ongoing efforts on the war on terrorism and making assessments about our needs. So the President has been assessing our needs and looking at what's needed going forward.
Q Is he going to talk about the United Nations and a role for the United Nations?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I don't want to get into too many specifics on the speech at this point. I mean, I think we'll save some of it for Sunday evening. But I did talk about -- well, as the President talked about last week in his American Legion speech, the President talked about how we are at a critical moment in the war on terrorism. Iraq is critical to winning the war on terrorism, and we have made some crucial advances in key areas around the world. And I think over the -- we have continued to demonstrate, particularly over the last few days, that we are taking aggressive action to meet and fulfill our responsibilities. And so --
Q Is this springing from a sense that Americans are uncomfortable with what's happening there? Is this an attempt --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, he started talking to senior staff about this, about a possible address to the nation, during his trip to St. Louis. So it would have been, what, last Tuesday, the 26th. The President recognizes an important responsibility is to continue to talk to the American people about the war on terrorism and update them on the progress we're making.
Q Is this directed strictly at the American people, or a broader overseas audience, too?
MR. McCLELLAN: As any address to the nation, he will be talking to the American people. Keep in mind that when I talk about Iraq being central to the war on terrorism, that a peaceful, free and democratic Iraq will serve as an example for the Middle East. A peaceful and democratic Iraq -- or peaceful and free Iraq will help bring peace and stability to the Middle East. And that will make the world a safer place. That will make America a safer place.
Q -- address questions like costs, both financial and in terms of military lives?
MR. McCLELLAN: I urge you to pay attention to the speech. Again, we have been assessing our needs and he will talk about needs going forward.
Q Is he planning on making any news, or is he just going to give us a grocery list --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think you will view it as a newsworthy address.
Q Why is this more of a critical time than two months ago or a month from now?
MR. McCLELLAN: One, I already mentioned that we've been taking aggressive action for a long period now. But particularly in the last few days, we've been taking a number of aggressive steps, I mean, both on the front to -- one, we have some strong international participation, but we want to make that international participation even broader. We welcome the participation of other nations. You already have some 30 nations that are participating, another 10 or so that have committed to help, and we have been in discussions with others.
We are in discussions with the United Nations Security Council members about a possible resolution, about proposed language for a resolution to encourage more participation from the United Nations, as well as the international community, as well as the Iraqi people themselves. The Iraqi people are assuming more and more responsibility -- I'm getting to one other aspect of this, too -- but are assuming more and more responsibility for their future.
The Governing Council has taken a number of important steps from naming the cabinet ministers to starting a constitutional process. And keep in mind that our enemies are trying to make Iraq a battlefield because of the progress we are making. They are desperate, and their desperation is coming as a result of the progress that we are making.
Q Just to follow up, you had said this was a progress report to the American people, to address the American people. Is he also hoping to -- is he seeing this as an address to the world, to gather more international support for --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sure it will be watched across the world. And certainly he will talk about how Iraq is something that the world has a stake in, the world has a stake in Iraq because it is central to winning the war on terrorism. I expect he will talk about the international participation, as well as the role that Iraqis are assuming as they take more responsibility for their future.
Q Will he directly address the --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, it's an address to the nation. But certainly, when the President of the United States speaks, the world is listening.
Q You talked about the fact he'll mention progress we are making. Can we expect to hear echoes of that 100-day report we got the other day, in terms of progress --
MR. McCLELLAN: Now you're trying to go into some more specifics within the speech. I want to wait and -- stay tuned for Sunday night. You'll hear more directly from him about specifics within the speech.
Q You said that he's going to make an address to the nation. Have the networks agreed to carry it?
MR. McCLELLAN: I have requested time, and I have not heard back at this time. I did that just a short time ago.
Q Scott, when was the last time we had a formal address to the nation? Was it the night that the bombing started in Iraq?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm trying to remember, off the top of my head. I think -- I'll have to check for you on that one. I can find that out, though. Last prime -- last prime-time address was what you're thinking?
Q Right, exactly, the last prime-time from the White House address to the nation.
MR. McCLELLAN: Okay. Let me -- I'll double-check that question.*
* The last time the President addressed the nation from the White House was March 19th, when military operations in Iraq began. The last time the President addressed the nation was May 1st, aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.
Q I'd like to try and pin you down one more time on what exactly prompted this now, besides consultation in recent days and weeks --
MR. McCLELLAN: It's what I said. During August, he spent a good portion of that time visiting with or talking to members of his national security team. As you will recall, there were National Security Council meetings via video conference from Crawford. Secretary Rumsfeld and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Myers went to Crawford to visit with the President. Secretary Powell and Deputy Secretary Armitage went to visit the President in Crawford. Dr. Rice certainly spent a good bit of time in Crawford. And he was in constant contact with members of his national security team in other ways, as well.
Q Scott, I'm sorry, why did those discussions point to this now?
MR. McCLELLAN: We've been -- we've been assessing our needs. We've been -- he's been listening to -- listening to people about what our needs are, moving forward. So that's what -- he'll talk some about our needs going forward.
Q Did some of those people include congressional leaders also during August? At the same time that you're talking about, there were many calls from congressional leaders, including Republican leaders, that the President needs to do a better job of communicating our goals in Iraq to the American people. Is this also a response to those?
MR. McCLELLAN: This is the way I've described it in terms of -- that what I just said, and the fact that the President recognizes an important responsibility you have as the President of the United States is to keep the American people informed about the progress we are making in the war on terrorism. This is his highest priority for the American people because it's about making America safer and the world safer.
Q So coming back at this the other way, there was no one single event or piece of information or incident that was the impetus for this happening now? It's I guess a conglomeration --
MR. McCLELLAN: Like I said, he started talking with senior staff about it last week, early last week. And the President felt this was a good time to make an address to the nation to talk to them about the progress we are making, and talk to them about our needs moving forward.
Q Needs moving forward include for the American people timetable, dollar figure, lives?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sure you'll be watching his speech closely on Sunday evening.
Q So you won't rule out --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not ruling in or out anything other than what I just -- other than the way I've described it. But I'm sure you will be watching on Sunday evening.
And with that, thank you.
Q Thank you, Scott.
END 4:25 P.M. CDT