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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 16, 2003
Press Briefing by Scott McClellan
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
1:00 P.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon. A couple updates on the President's day -- or one update and then one announcement. The President spoke with Prime Minister Blair this morning. This was early this morning. And the two leaders discussed the progress we are making in Iraq and our ongoing diplomatic efforts on that front.
One announcement: The President has invited President Duarte of Paraguay to meet with him at the White House on September 26th. Paraguay is a close ally of the United States in the war on terrorism. This will be an opportunity for the two leaders to discuss the important bilateral partnership, and ways to work together to advance economic growth and prosperity and promote peace, freedom and stability.
And with that, I'll go right into questions. Seeing none, I'll leave. (Laughter.)
Q Was the Blair phone call to discuss Blair's conversations with Chirac and --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, they did discuss the ongoing diplomatic efforts, including at the United Nations, and touched on the upcoming meeting that Prime Minister Blair will have with Chancellor Schroeder and Prime Minister Chirac.
Q Are you hopeful for a resolution this week?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we're continuing to have discussions with countries, members of the United Nations Security Council. We're still working that progress. The meetings in Geneva we thought were good meetings, and now we're working to look at some of the issues that were raised there. There was a lot of points of consensus at the Geneva meeting. So we'll continue talking with all the countries involved. And the one thing that I do know is that we all share the same goal and want the same outcome, and that's a sovereign, free and democratic Iraq, governed of, by and for the Iraqi people, as quickly as possible.
Q Scott, on that issue, is the speed with which control is turned over to the Iraqis, themselves, is that a key issue to this White House?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that that's an issue that's been raised. It's important to us that we move as quickly as possible to transfer responsibility to the Iraqi people. And that's exactly what we are doing. Ambassador Bremer went and laid out the seven-step process to fully transferring authority to the Iraqi people. And we've already made some significant progress on that front with the Iraqi Governing Council, the beginning of a committee to establish a constitutional process, which is key. We need to make sure that we have the institutions of democracy in place so that the Iraqi people can assume full responsibility for their country.
Q Is the administration resisting the notion of, say, a timetable, for complete transfer of authority, as some of the others in the U.N. are calling for out of a fear that to do so too soon is to compromise the security on the ground?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's why I mentioned that you need to have the institutions of democracy in place to be able to transfer full responsibility. Now, remember that in the proposed language of the resolution, what we call for is for the Iraqis, the Iraqi Governing Council to establish a timetable for a constitution, for free elections, and report to the Security Council in regards to that timetable. So that's something that is within the proposed language of the resolution now.
Q This morning's Wall Street Journal said that the Taliban was threatening to cut off people's noses who listen to music in Afghanistan. The President on Friday said that the Taliban found out what we meant and there was no longer a haven for terrorists. What is the White House planning on doing or saying to those people who are being threatened by the Taliban in Afghanistan?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think what you just said at the beginning shows the true nature of the Taliban and of the type of people that still seek to do harm to Americans and other countries and that have no regard for innocent human life, absolutely no regard. These are nothing but cold-blooded killers. We did dismantle the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. And there are some remnants that are still trying to carry out attacks. What we are doing is going after them with the full force and might of our United States military. And we will continue to do that, to make sure that we are doing everything we can to protect the American people from future attacks.
Q Scott, from this podium, you and your predecessor, Ari Fleischer, have both said that the President is confident that weapons of mass destruction will be found in Iraq -- not programs, not dual capabilities, not a history of efforts to acquire them, but actual weapons of mass destruction. Is the President still confident of that and when can we expect to hear?
MR. McCLELLAN: David Kaye, who's leading the Iraq survey group, which is -- they're interviewing people, they're talking to Iraqis, they're gathering all the intelligence to pull together a complete picture of Iran -- of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program and their weapons of mass destruction. They will be presenting more information in the future about that picture. I think that there's an interim report that will be provided to the Director of Central Intelligence, Director Tenet. And so, that work continues. And, yes, we still stand by what we've previously said.
Q That there will be actual weapons found --
MR. McCLELLAN: Weapons of mass destruction and weapons programs.
Q There was a story over the weekend that this report will be shelved, that it will be not released because they haven't found anything.
MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't heard anything like that. David Kaye continues to do his work. He's been compiling massive amounts of documents about Iraq's history of weapons of mass destruction and weapons of mass destruction program.
Q Great. And then, this weekend, the Vice President said that al Qaeda had received -- al Qaeda personnel had received "training," for example, on biological weapons and chemical weapons, that al Qaeda had sent personnel to Baghdad when it was ruled by Saddam Hussein to get trained on the systems, and that the Iraqis provided bomb-making expertise and advice to al Qaeda. Can you back that up?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I think that, in fact, Secretary Powell I think outlined Iraq's ties to terrorists and terrorist organizations. I would remind you that there was -- Iraq harbored a senior al Qaeda associate and collaborator of Osama bin Laden, al Zarqawi. He was the one who was responsible for the cell that killed an American in Jordan. He is one that oversaw the network that developed a poisons lab in the northeastern part of Iraq.
Q But I was wondering about this training on biological weapons and chemical weapons, providing bomb-making expertise. What's the source for that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I think that -- and again, I'd go back and look at Secretary Powell's specific remarks, but I think that he outlined a lot of those ties when he went to the United Nations back earlier this year.
Q President Bush has had high praise for military commanders who won swift victories in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Does he have similar praise for a man who won a swift air war over Kosovo, Retired General Wesley Clark?
MR. McCLELLAN: Thank you for the opportunity to get involved in politics. I think I will pass.
Q What does he think of his command abilities?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, you're asking in the context of a guy who's looking at running for president on the Democratic ticket, and I think that's a nice try, but I will pass and continue to focus on what we are working to do, which is the people's business.
Q Scott, on Syria, Under Secretary Bolton went before the House subcommittee and briefed them, saying that they still continue to pursue weapons of mass destruction, they support Hezbollah and Hamas, and also are allowing militants to cross the border into Iraq. At what point does the administration say, enough is enough, we're going to slap economic sanctions?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I think that's -- that he summed up well our longstanding and well-known concerns about Syria's behavior in the Middle East and their support for terrorist groups. Syria has a history and they continue to harbor and assist terrorists and terrorist organizations, including Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and others. And their behavior is unacceptable. And states that harbor terror, as the President has made clear, will be held accountable.
We're also concerned about, as you mentioned, their weapons of mass destruction program, and we are concerned about the cross-boarder infiltration of foreign fighters or foreign terrorists that are coming into Iraq, trying to attack the Iraqi people, coalition forces, the United States included in that. So there are a number of longstanding concerns that we have with regards to Syria. They know our views; they know what needs to be done. And we will continue to make clear what our view is.
Q So what is the administration prepared to do about it?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we've made it very clear to Syria what they need to do, that their behavior is unacceptable, and that they need to change their behavior.
Q Are economic sanctions a possibility?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not speculating. I'm making it very clear that their behavior is unacceptable and they will be held accountable for that behavior.
Q Scott, two things. First, some from both sides of the aisle are questioning how is the nation better than four years ago, as they are watching the Democratic candidates throw up issues -- finding no weapons of mass destruction, no exits to the Iraqi war, the economy and jobless rates.
MR. McCLELLAN: Are we trying to get into the campaign season now?
Q No, we're not trying, we are in the campaign season.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think some people are. We're in the season of staying focused on the people's business, and that's what we will continue to do. There are some very high priorities that we need to continue to address. That's winning the war on terrorism, where we're making great progress, and strengthening our economy. That's where the President's focus is. I know there's a lot of politics going on and people will say a lot of things during the Democratic primary process, but we will remain focused on the people's business.
Q But beyond the partisan politics, these are real issues that are being brought to you every day. So this is not about politics, but how is the nation better today than four years ago?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, America is safer and stronger; safer in terms of the action that we are taking in the war on terrorism, by going on the offensive and going after terrorists and bringing them to justice before they can carry out an attack on our shores. And we will continue to do that. We continue to take -- the President inherited a recession. We continue to work to build on the steps that we have already taken to strengthen our economy and get it growing again. It is growing. There are a lot of positive signs out there. But there is more to do, and that's why the President has continued to focus on leading and acting on behalf of the American people.
Q And the next question, real quick. The Senate has overturned the relaxation of the media ownership rules, and the President was for the relaxation. And some are saying, why is he for the relaxation when he is so for diversity, and diversity includes diverse opinion.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, the FCC is the body that is responsible for looking at this issue. They spent a lot of time looking at this issue, with respect to the broadcast media ownership. And we think that the rules that the FCC came up with more accurately reflect the changing media landscape and the current state of network station ownership, while guarding against undue concentration in the marketplace. So we think the FCC did its job, and that's what it was supposed to do. They took almost two years to develop these rules. And I did notice the Senate action today. I think that the vote appears to show that there would not be enough votes there to overturn a possible veto.
Q But on diversity, diverse issues, the President talks about how he's looking for everybody to be able to get along and everybody have the same kind of ground -- to be able to start off at the same level. But how is it that way when you're letting media organizations or wanting media organizations to own everything in one community and have that one voice instead of having everyone talk?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know that I agree with that characterization. Like I said, the FCC did its job.
Let me go to Keith.
Q If I could follow on that -- you said a possible veto. Is the veto threat still on for that --
MR. McCLELLAN: That's in the statement of administration policy. That is in there.
Q I just wanted to ask you -- this morning your colleague said that the result of the Cancun collapse of the talks would result in a pause, which implies that the deadline won't be met, January 1st, 2005. But it also could mean that there's no negotiations for the next period of time, three months, six months, and then as most trade negotiations happen, there's a furious activity and they could still make the deadline of January 1st, 2005. Is the President at all thinking that that might be a possibility?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think as you mentioned what my colleague said, that it's expected that after this meeting that there would be a pause and that countries would have to go back and assess what happened and determine how we can move forward. In the meantime, the United States is going to continue working bilaterally and regionally on expanding trade and opening markets. It's important that we continue to expand trade.
I think that it was a real mis-opportunity in Cancun. The President is strongly committed to opening markets and expanding trade for American products and workers and making sure that the playing field is level.
Q So, clearly, this deadline won't be met --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well again, at this point there's going to be a pause and a time of assessment by all the members to determine how we can move forward. We are committed to moving forward aggressively on expanding trade and we will continue to move forward, both in terms of bilateral approach and the regional approach with other countries.
Q Has the administration made a decision yet about reducing the loan guarantees to Israel on the basis of settlement activity? And can you update us on what consideration is being given at this point as far as reducing the loan guarantees to reflect whatever Israel is spending on the fence?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, two things. One, in terms of the loan guarantee that we will be providing to Israel that builds upon additional assistance we have already provided to Israel, this is for helping Israel with economic growth and helping them on their economic reform plan.
Now, the authorizing legislation, when it passed in the supplemental, I believe, last March, stated that if Israel is spending money on settlement activity, then there needs to be a reduction in that loan guarantee. Secretary Powell is the one that the President has designated to oversee this loan guarantee package. And so, Secretary Powell will make the determination in terms of what spending reductions there might be. I expect that there may well be some reductions. But those are decisions that will be made by the Secretary of State.
Q And does that include the fence, as well?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, in terms of the fence, there are still discussions ongoing. We have made our concerns known. I don't rule anything out at this point.
Q Scott, representatives Murtha and Pelosi are saying that the Bush administration has put U.S. soldiers at risk by not spending more on critical needs in the field, and they're asking for a fuller accounting of how the first $65 billion has been spent -- that was appropriated has been spent, and is being spent, before acting on the President's latest request. Are you prepared to do that?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think our Department of Defense stays in close contact with members of Congress about the funds and where they're being spent. The President is committed to making sure that our men and women in uniform have all the resources they need to win the war on terrorism. That's what this is all about. It's about winning the war on terrorism and better protecting the American people from future attacks. And the commanders in the field are the ones that make the decisions in terms of what is needed. But we will do everything we can to make sure that they have all the equipment, all the resources they need, to do the outstanding job that they are doing.
Q Following the meeting between Bono and the President, Bono told reporters that he believes the President is truly committed to a long-term strategy regarding AIDS funding for Africa. However, he said in the immediate -- what's happening right now is the President is -- and these are his words -- "short-changing the program." What happened to the $3 billion commitment for fiscal year '04?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know how one could look at what the President has done and come up with those words that you used to describe it. The President has shown unprecedented leadership in the fight against AIDS, globally and at home.
He outlined a $15 billion package over five years to direct resources to -- a lot of those resources to the most afflicted countries in Africa and the Caribbean, 14 countries in all. The President is strongly committed to helping those who are suffering in those afflicted countries. And we are fully committed to making sure that that $15 billion is implemented.
Q Did the White House ever commit to $3 billion on the front end, the first year, '04?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, keep in mind that, again, there's $15 billion over five years. You need to make sure that the infrastructure is in place for those resources to be spent. We want to make sure that the money is spent effectively and that there's accountability for that money. So there's a ramp-up period, and so that money will continue to ramp up over time, but it will be a total of $15 billion over five years.
And we are working with Congress to make sure that the $2 billion that was requested is fully funded, and Congress is moving forward on that. This is one of the President's highest priorities. He made it very clear in his State of the Union address that it was important that Congress act on this initiative. So we are moving forward to make sure that it is fully funded.
Q Back on Israel, following up on the previous question. The President has previously said that the fence is a problem. Does the President believe the fence is still a problem?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I said that we have made our concerns known. Those concerns remain, and there is nothing to update you, in terms of the discussions. The President said we would talk about this directly with the Israeli government, and that's what we will continue to do.
Q They're still building it, though.
MR. McCLELLAN: And we will continue to talk about these concerns with the Israeli government.
Q And then on this afternoon's event, the President campaigned as a uniter, not a divider; as someone who would seek bipartisan consensus on issues. The officials and community leaders who are coming to the East Garden this afternoon are all supporters of the President's Clear Skies Initiative. Does he have any plans to meet with opponents of it, and if not, why not?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, reaching out is a two-way street, keep in mind. The President has reached out because the President believes, particularly on the issue you're talking about, when it comes to improving our environment and protecting our environment, that we need to focus on results. We need to focus on building upon the progress that we have made.
The President announced yesterday the most recent air quality trend report, which showed that since 1970 there has been a nearly 50-percent reduction in emissions. And we want to build upon that progress. That's why the President is urging Congress later today -- continuing to urge Congress to act on his Clear Skies Initiative. This will lead to a 70-percent reduction in power plant emissions, based on a proven approach that was based on the market-based approach under the acid rain program. The environment is too important to become politicized. And the President recognizes that we need to have both environmental protection and economic growth. The two go hand in hand. When you have economic growth, you can invest in the innovative new technologies needed to better protect the environment.
And so we want to build upon the progress we have made to improve our air quality. And that's what the Clear Skies Initiative does. And we welcome anybody that wants to work with us to get this passed. We hope that they will work with us to get this passed as quickly as possible, and urge members to move forward on this important priority.
Q How do you respond to major environmental groups who oppose the Clear Skies Initiative because they say it effectively puts off too far into the future significant emissions?
MR. McCLELLAN: I say that this is an unprecedented approach by a President of the United States that will lead to the most ambitious reduction -- we'll see you later, John -- (laughter) -- that will lead to the most ambitious reduction in power plant emissions ever, 70-percent reduction; and that we should be working together, focusing on areas of common ground.
Q Environmental groups say that without the changes that the administration made -- further reductions than that 70 percent that you're talking about would be made sooner.
MR. McCLELLAN: There are alternative approaches that could have a very negative effect on our economy. And we are still working to strengthen our economic growth. The economic growth and environmental protection go hand in hand. And the alternative is lost jobs, harm to our economy. That's an approach that the President doesn't believe is needed, that we can do both, we can do both.
Let me move on.
Q The President does not include there any limits on carbon dioxide. Why not?
MR. McCLELLAN: Because of the concerns we -- because of what we expressed previously. One, that's not regulated under the Clean Air Act, recognized as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. But most importantly, for what I was just talking about, because it could have a very negative and harmful effect on jobs, job creation and our economy. It could cost us a lot of money in increased energy prices. It could cost us money in terms of the economy and would be a job killer to take a drastic approach like that at this point.
That's why -- now, we are moving forward with the President's climate change initiative, which does work to reduce the growth in greenhouse gas intensity by 18 percent. At the same time, it allows us to grow our economy.
Q But the problem there, as I understand it, is that you've got coal-fired plants which are responsible for about half the nation's electricity. Your concern about carbon caps, which is one of the pushes on legislation on the Hill, is, I gather, that it would affect all the coal-fired plants. Is that where your objection lies --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think it lies in the fact that it would hurt job creation and it would hurt our economy if you took that approach. We are continuing to put a lot of -- the Kyoto protocol is one thing to look back at, and some of the estimates that were based on that, in terms of the billions of dollars it would cost the economy and the millions of jobs that would be lost. That's why we're taking the approach we are. The President also, on the climate change front, is working to -- we're putting a lot of money into research, while at the same time working to reduce the growth in greenhouse gas intensity, but keep our economy growing, so that we can have investment in those new technologies that are needed to address the very issue that you brought up.
Q Scott, the President, at the U.N. a year ago, said that Iraq presented the U.N. with a test. Does the President think the U.N. failed that test? And will he address those failures next week when he goes to the U.N.?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, I think that we'll have a preview of his remarks closer to next week, closer to Tuesday. So I don't want to jump ahead of it at this point -- still working on those remarks. But the President has made it known that, for instance, in Iraq, that decision in terms of going into Iraq and removing the threat that Saddam Hussein posed -- remember, as the President said, Saddam Hussein won't be giving weapons of mass destruction to any terrorist organizations. We know that for sure.
The U.N. has a vital role to play as we move forward in Iraq, and as we move forward toward a sovereign, free and democratic Iraq. And so we are continuing to work with the U.N. in that area. The President wants the U.N. to be an effective body, and that's why he gave the speech he did last September.
Q Would it be fair to say, though, that on the decision the Security Council made in March, the President feels that the U.N. failed that test --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Saddam Hussein had been given ample opportunity to comply with resolution after resolution after resolution -- at least 17 in all. And the threat in the post-September 11th world became even more real. And it's important that after that continued defiance, that we address that threat. And so we moved forward on that. But that decision has already occurred. Now we need to move forward on bringing freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people. That's what we are doing because that's important to winning the war on terrorism and bringing peace and stability to the Middle East, an important region that has been a breeding ground for terrorism.
Q Thank you, Scott. Yesterday, the judicial activists of the Ninth Circuit struck again. Last week, Miguel Estrada withdrew his nomination in the face of unprecedented and prolonged filibusters by Democrats in the Senate. Is the President considering recess appointments to end what has become a judicial and constitutional crisis?
MR. McCLELLAN: Recess appointments for judicial nominees? One, we're not in recess. The President is committed to the nominees that he has put forward. In terms of Miguel Estrada, it was disappointing, but understandable that he would withdraw his name after that lengthy process. People are politicizing the judicial process, and vacancies remain. We need to fill those vacancies. The President has appointed very qualified people, including Miguel Estrada. And the Senate needs to give those nominees an up or down vote. It's very outrageous that they are playing politics with judicial nominees. It's unprecedented.
Q Any comment on the Ninth Circuit's actions yesterday in regard to the California recall?
MR. McCLELLAN: You know our position on that. That's a matter for the state of California.
Q Scott, on North Korea, can you explain the statement your office released last night about giving U.S. aid for energy? Will some of the U.S. money go to the North Korea? And are there secret negotiations --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, no, no, that's not money for energy. That's money for the administration of KEDO. So that's what that is.
Q But none of it goes to North Korea then?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, it's for the administration of KEDO. We made that clear in the statement.
Q KEDO is just South Korea?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q KEDO is just South Korea negotiations?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, no, no. It was set up when the agreed framework was reached. And we continue to believe it's important to provide the administrative funding for it. But no money is going to North Korea for any nuclear activities.
Q Tomorrow's National Archives rededication -- does the President have any theme in mind for the remarks he's going to give there?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, listen to his remarks. But this is the rededication after, I guess, two years of work on the National Archives. And it's certainly a historic building that houses some very important documents. And so the President looks forward to going there and rededicating it. It's important for our country and for the American people.
Q The Department of the Army spokesman at the Pentagon said yesterday that retired Colonel David Hackworth is a heavily dedicated combat leader who is not regarded as undependable. And they have also seen his column where he reports, "apparently more than half of the women deployed to Iraq are now pregnant." And my question: While Army spokesmen from the Pentagon and Baghdad would neither confirm nor deny this pregnancy rate, surely the Commander-in-Chief will not try to evade this very serious problem, will he, Scott?
MR. McCLELLAN: Les, I'm not quite sure what you're referring to, but it sounds like it's a matter to address to the Pentagon. (Laughter.)
Q -- I want to know how does the Commander-in-Chief -- is he concerned that all these women are getting pregnant?
MR. McCLELLAN: Les, I haven't heard anything about this.
Q Colonel Hackworth also reports thousands of angry e-mails from veterans protesting the awarding of the Bronze Star to PFC Jessica Lynch after propagandists conned The Washington Post into reporting that she was shot and stabbed, but continued to kill Iraqis, which never happened. And I wonder, how does the Commander-in-Chief react to thousands of veterans' complaints?
MR. McCLELLAN: Les, I think that the President knows that we have a lot of heroes, including Jessica Lynch. They should all be commended for the service and sacrifices that they make.
Q There's a new GAO report that is critical of public diplomacy efforts by the United States. How is that effort going in Iraq, the effort to inform the Iraqi people? Is the U.S. message getting across?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that it's always important to make sure that we are communicating the steps that we are taking in Iraq to improve the infrastructure, improve stability and security in the country, and transfer responsibility to the Iraqi people. I think the Iraqi Governing Council is playing more and more of a role in getting that message across. I mean, I think that's a question better directed to the Coalition Provisional Authority, in terms of the specific steps to take. I haven't seen the GAO report. I don't know when it came out, but I haven't seen it.
Q Scott, state and local election officials have been complaining that as they try to replace punch card machines they're not getting the federal aid that they were promised. A lot of the money has been held up because of the appointment of the new election commission. And the President just mentioned his intention to nominate some members, even though the commission was supposed to be set up last February. In addition, he only asked for -- in his budget -- for $500 million next year, which does not fully fund the Help America Vote Act. Why isn't the President acting more aggressively in trying to implement this law?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, you pointed out he has nominated or announced his intention to nominate I believe four individuals to be members of the Election Assistance Commission. And I expect that in the very near future, the President will be able to nominate the candidates.
So the process is usually that he announces the intention, and then shortly after that we move forward on actually nominating those individuals. But we have distributed to the states all of the $625 million that was appropriated under Title I of the bill that was passed. The President, as you're aware, did support and sign the 2003 legislation that provided historic allocation of resources to fund election administration upgrades, as you mentioned, as part of our partnership with the states.
Q Well, why didn't you press forward funding it next year?
MR. McCLELLAN: We are providing -- well, we are working to provide an additional $500 million to those activities. We believe that that's a sufficient amount that builds upon what we have already provided to the states.
Q On the Robert Novak-Joseph Wilson situation, Novak reported earlier this year -- quoting -- "anonymous government sources" telling him that Wilson's wife was a CIA operative. Now, this is apparently a federal offense, to burn the cover a CIA operative. Wilson now believes that the person who did this was Karl Rove. He's quoted from a speech last month as saying, "At the end of the day, it's of keen interest to me to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs." Did Karl Rove tell that --
MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't heard that. That's just totally ridiculous. But we've already addressed this issue. If I could find out who anonymous people were, I would. I just said, it's totally ridiculous.
Q But did Karl Rove do it?
MR. McCLELLAN: I said, it's totally ridiculous.
Q I have a second question. The second question is, a report yesterday from Center for Science in the Public Interest says children in America are getting fat. Obesity rates have doubled and tripled -- doubled in children and tripled in teens over the last two decades. They blame it on junk food in schools. Kids are taking in 30 pounds of soda every year now. They say, they're eating a lot of Hostess Ho-Hos out of the vending machines. They want to ban junk food from the schools. Does the President agree with that proposal?
MR. McCLELLAN: We are working on a number of fronts to improve the health of the American people. I mean, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Agriculture are working on those efforts. And obviously, individual school districts make decisions about their schools. But there are a number of fronts in the President's initiative to improve physical fitness.
Q Scott, as the President goes to the United Nations to address the General Assembly next week, he will be meeting, I understand, with the Prime Minister of India and General Musharraf, Pakistan. But Indian Prime Minister has refused to meet with General Musharraf in New York next week because of what he says, the twin bombings have started in India, double bombings and unless President Bush puts pressure on Musharraf in New York, really there will not be what you call -- talks. And also, what U.S. does really for India, as far as bombings are concerned, this all depends on how the President will be meeting and what is his message.
MR. McCLELLAN: Two things. One, as we get closer to the U.N., we'll have more to say about his agenda and his meetings and his remarks that he will make. Two, we have made our views very well-known when it comes to India and Pakistan and the need for the parties to continue working to reduce tensions in the region.
Q Hurricane Isabel, what the White House, the President is doing to prepare.
MR. McCLELLAN: The Department of -- well, a couple of things. The Department of Homeland Security, as you've seen today from Secretary Ridge, has been working on preparations in advance of Hurricane Isabel's landfall. They've been doing that since early last week. We are taking all necessary steps to be prepared -- to be as prepared as possible for its landfall. And in terms of the President, the President has been being kept apprised of what we are doing. He's been briefed in his morning briefings by Secretary Ridge, by his Homeland Security Advisor, General Gordon. So he's continuing to be kept apprised of all that we are -- all the actions that we are taking.
The White House is also in close contact and communication with the Office of Personnel Management, Secretary Ridge and FEMA, to make sure appropriate measures are taken in terms of the federal government in Washington, D.C. and at the White House. So we continue to take actions. Homeland Security has activated its emergency preparedness and response teams in expectation of Isabel's arrival on land. There are a number of steps that they have taken to -- activating the headquarters operations center and regional centers in the areas that might be impacted. FEMA has activated medical teams, emergency communication equipment, emergency rescue teams, as well as pre-positioned emergency packages that include cots, blankets, food, water and generators, among other things.
So they continue to work closely with states on the preparedness. I think Secretary Ridge a short time ago had a video conference with state emergency management officials, as well. But we are making sure that we are taking all the necessary steps to address this in the regions that would be impacted, as well as here in Washington, D.C.
END 1:39 P.M. EDT
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