For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 1, 2003
Press Gaggle by Claire Buchan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Richfield, Ohio
10:00 A.M. EDT
MS. BUCHAN: When the President arrives in Cleveland, he will be met by Shirley Moore, Freedom Corps volunteer. She is 67, and she is a volunteer with the RSVP -- Retired and Senior Volunteer program, which is part of the Senior Corps. And she volunteers at a local elementary school helping kindergartners and first-graders improve their reading skills.
From the Cleveland airport the President will go to Richfield, Ohio, where he will meet with -- or have a Labor Day event with the International Union of Operating Engineers. That union was founded in 1896. It has 400,000 members and it's the 12th largest union in the AFL-CIO. It represents operating engineers and stationary engineers, as well as nurses and other health industry workers. In Ohio, the Local 18 is a statewide construction local union with 16,000 members, and Local 20 is a statewide engineer local union with 2,000 members. And the President will be making remarks on the economy and the importance of American workers to our economy; in particular, the manufacturing sector will be a focus.
With that I will take your questions.
Q Claire, we've lost 2.7 million jobs in the last three years. There's a lot of anxiety, a lot of pain. What words of encouragement is the President going to offer today to those people, to Americans feeling anxious?
MS. BUCHAN: Well, a couple points on that, Scott. As you know, the President is always concerned when any American who wants to find a job can't find one, and who is looking for a job can't find a job, which is why he has worked so hard to create an environment where we create jobs, where our economy is growing stronger so that it is growing fast enough to create the number of jobs we need.
The economy began to slow in 2000, and the President took aggressive and bold action to put forward two major tax relief packages and growth packages, which has helped get the economy growing. And there are signs that the economy is improving. But the President still isn't satisfied, and he'll touch on all of those elements in his remarks today.
Q Is there anything specific that the President will offer to help speed things along?
MS. BUCHAN: Well, the President will talk about those initiatives that we have already enacted to help American workers, as well as items that remain on the table like liability reform, like energy legislation, the initiative to help people who are having a difficult time finding work -- he'll highlight that. And he'll also have at least one new item that he will mention in his remarks today.
Q What's that? Is it a good one?
MS. BUCHAN: It will be at least one new thing for you to report on.
Q Of those 2.7 million jobs, almost all were in the manufacturing sector. Is that why we're going to Ohio? Because that's one of the states that's been so hard-hit, and of course, was a close state in 2000?
MS. BUCHAN: Well, the President has, as I said, always been concerned about American workers looking for jobs, and this is the third Labor Day that he has traveled to meet with American workers and to talk about their important contributions to the economy. And this continues his ongoing effort to help American workers --
Q -- what about Ohio?
MS. BUCHAN: This is an opportunity for the President to meet with the International Operating Engineers Union.
Q What about the fact that this is sort of the unofficial kickoff of the political season and Ohio is certainly a critical state when it comes to the next election?
MS. BUCHAN: Well, the President is focused on the business at hand. He's focused on governing. As you've heard him say, there will come a time for politics, but right now the President is focusing on his job, leading Americans, and he's focused on helping create jobs for American workers.
Q You may not have this, but do you have any reason why he's addressing this union specifically? Last year he talked to steel workers and talked about some of the issues they were facing. Is there anything about these specific workers and this union that he -- is the reason why he's visiting them? There may not be, it may just be an audience that was there, but --
MS. BUCHAN: They're American workers and they represent much of what is going on in the economy, where workers who are looking for jobs are having a difficult time, or workers who are working are contributing to the vitality of the American economy that the President talks about. You often hear him talk about the resilience of the American economy. Much of that is thanks to our workers, who have increased productivity and who have risen to the challenge. So he'll highlight that, as well.
Q Did they invite him to speak today?
MS, BUCHAN: I don't know quite how the logistics of this worked out.
Q Did the White House invite Congressman Kucinich?
MS. BUCHAN: I don't know who all was invited. We typically invite the member in the district that the event is being held in.
Q I think that's a Democrat. Do you happen to know whether that person was invited?
MS. BUCHAN: I already said I don't know if that person was invited.
Q There's a new tape broadcast on al Jazeera. As I understand it, it reports to have Saddam denying involvement in last week's bombing. Do you know anything about the veracity of that tape or the claim?
MS. BUCHAN: I don't have anything on it.
Q Is there anything new to day about Friday's bombing, and the three-day funeral procession that's going on over there?
MS. BUCHAN: Well, we continue to work with the Iraqi people, with the Iraqi governing council and with our international coalition to help bring about a more stable, more secure Iraq, and to help the Iraqi people build a better and more peaceful future for themselves.
Q Do you have any idea who was behind that bombing, Claire?
MS. BUCHAN: I don't have anything on that, Steve. You might touch base with the coalition provisional authority who is working with the Iraqi governing council -- they may have updates for you.
Q Have tactics changed on the ground in combatting this kind of activity, which is much different than what you saw with the original attacks on troops in the beginning?
MS. BUCHAN: For the specifics on tactics you should be talking to the commanders on the ground or the coalition provisional authority. We continue to be very committed to working with the Iraqis and with the Iraqi governing council and with our international coalition to help secure Iraq, to bring about a more peaceful and better future for the Iraqi people.
Q Is the President growing any more concerned, though, given that this is the third car bomb that's gone off? I mean, things are really getting seemingly increasingly worse over there.
MS. BUCHAN: The President is resolved to work to bring a better future for the Iraqi people. He has always said that this would be a -- that it would take considerable effort, and I think if you look back at his speech on Thursday, the President talked about this being a long-term effort and a major undertaking, and that continues.
Q There have been bitter complaints from within Iraq that the Americans haven't allowed Iraqis to provide enough security for themselves, Americans haven't provided that security either. Do you know, has that complaint risen to the President's attention? What do you make of it?
MS. BUCHAN: I'm sorry, I don't understand what you're --
Q The Iraqis complain that Americans aren't letting Iraqis protect themselves, nor are Americans providing the kind of security that might have prevented this bombing. Is there anything to that?
MS. BUCHAN: One, we are working very closely with the Iraqi people to help them bring about a more stable future for themselves. Already 38,000 Iraqis have been hired as police officers; 12,000 Iraqis will be trained for the Iraqi army in the next year. There are 1,400 Iraqis who have stepped forward as volunteers in the Iraqi civil defense, We're stepping up raids, we're working with some 30 coalition partners on the ground in Iraq. So we're working very hard with both the Iraqi people and with the international coalition.
Q Thank you.
END 10:09 A.M. EDT