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 Home > News & Policies > October 2003

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 8, 2003

Press Briefing by Scott McClellan
the James S. Brady Briefing Room

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12:32 P.M. EDT

MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon. At approximately noon today, just a short time ago, the President called Governor-elect Schwarzenegger to congratulate him on his victory. The President said to the Governor-elect that he was proud of the race he ran and that he looked forward to working with him.

And with that, I will go right into questions.

Q Will the President see the Governor-elect next week in California?

MR. McCLELLAN: Didn't we ask that earlier? (Laughter.)

Q I think I might have.

MR. McCLELLAN: We'll keep you posted on the schedule, if there are any updates to the schedule. The President looks forward to seeing him at some point in the future.

Q Scott, the administration is undertaking a public relations campaign, with a speech by Dr. Rice today, the President tomorrow, the Vice President on Friday, to talk up your successes in Iraq. Can you make the bad there go away just by talking up the good?

MR. McCLELLAN: John, Iraq is now the central front in the war on terrorism, and the highest priority for this President is the safety and security of the American people. And he will continue to wage this war on terror because of the importance that it has. Iraq -- the stakes are high in Iraq. We are making significant progress on many fronts. There are a number of success stories that we are achieving on behalf of the American people and on behalf of the Iraqi people and on behalf of the international community.

And so we are continuing to -- well, if you go back to September 11th, the attacks of September 11th, the President, shortly after those attacks, addressed the nation and he talked about one of his most important responsibilities would be, as the war on terror is waged, to keep the American people informed about the actions that we are taking on their behalf, to make America more secure.

Q Correct me if I'm wrong, but it would seem to me that this campaign is being undertaken to combat the growing public sentiment that the war in Iraq wasn't worth it, other negative poll numbers that have shown up in recent weeks. Don't you need something significant to happen on the ground to turn that around? Or do you think you can turn those numbers around simply by talking up the good aspects of what's happened?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, we're making significant progress in Iraq, which is the central front in the war on terror. There are a number of efforts that we are undertaking on many fronts. Keep in mind that we are accelerating our efforts in Iraq so that we can prevail in the central front as quickly as possible.

We have the wartime supplemental that is before Congress right now. That has important resources that will help us move forward to achieve our objectives. We are also working to broaden international participation. We are working to transfer more and more responsibility to the Iraqi people. The Iraqi people are assuming more and more responsibility.

So as our efforts are accelerating on all these different fronts, it's important to keep the American people informed about what we are doing. So there will be a sustained effort to keep the American people informed about these actions that we are taking, and how those actions are benefiting the American people, in addition to the rest of the international community.

Q But why would you see the need to come out with this campaign to accentuate the positive --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we've been talking to the American people about this. Like I said, we are now -- we are in a period where we are accelerating our efforts. There are a lot of important successes to point out in Iraq. Last week you heard directly from Bernie Kerik about his experiences, what he saw and what he helped to achieve there by starting the Iraqi police force. And now you have 40,000, 50,000 people in the Iraqi police force who are taking more and more responsibility for their own security.

The infrastructure is improving. We are making great progress on that front, as well, in terms of the electricity and in terms of building hospitals, children's hospitals; in terms of opening schools. So there is a lot of important success stories that are happening. And it's important to keep the American people informed, and here's why. Iraq -- when we achieve a secure, free and democratic Iraq, we will have dealt a significant blow to the enemy in the war on terrorism. It will help bring about stability and peace in a very volatile region, a region that has been a breeding ground for terrorism. So there are important success stories and important progress to keep the American people informed about. And that's what we will be doing.

Q Can I follow up?

MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Bob.

Q The President said on Monday that you wouldn't know about these successes if you listen to the filters, implying, I suppose, that he's concluded the media is not doing its job in transmitting that progress. When did the President conclude that, that that story was not getting out sufficiently? And to what extent is --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that you heard directly from some Americans that were over helping with reconstruction in Iraq, earlier, just a few days ago, when they were here at the White House to talk to the President about some of the successes that we are achieving and the progress that we are making. And those Americans went out to talk to you all after they met with the President, and they talked about how, if you looked at some of the media here, you wouldn't know about some of the great progress that we are making in Iraq. There's some important progress that we are making, and it's the responsibility of this administration to keep the American people informed about those successes.

Q And could I ask, to what extent that dynamic is being affected by the drumbeat of democratic criticism with nine Democrats out running for President criticizing every day?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, it goes back to what I said at the beginning. This is about winning the war on terrorism. Iraq is the central front. And the President, after the September 11th attacks, went to the American people and talked to them about one of his most important responsibilities, that is keeping them informed about the progress we were making as we wage this war on terrorism. Iraq is the central front in this war on terrorism. The stakes are very high. The world has a stake in what is going on in Iraq because a stable, secure, free and democratic Iraq will help bring about peace and stability in a very volatile region.

And so we're going to continue to keep the American people informed as we move forward in this front on the war on terrorism and as we prevail in this front in the war on terrorism.

Q Well, Scott, obviously -- I mean, the President made his remark about the filter. Obviously, this campaign is aimed at overcoming what he sees is a filter.

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, this is part of a sustained effort to keep the American people informed about the results we are achieving and by the actions that we are taking to make America more secure, to make the world a better and safer place, and to build a brighter future for the Iraqi people.

Q It was described by a senior administration official as a new effort. So you're saying it's not a new effort?

MR. McCLELLAN: I describe it as a sustained effort to keep the American people informed.

Q Could I ask you about one other thing related to this? We now know from Secretary Rumsfeld that he was completely in the dark about this new effort by the National Security Advisor and others to offer a support group for the Iraqi reconstruction --

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I don't know that -- the way you characterized the question at the beginning is necessarily accurate. I think you might want to talk to the Pentagon about that.

Q I have, and my point remains that the Defense Secretary has made clear that he was in the dark about this and did not know until he received the memo outlining the effort -- at least, that's what he says. Does the White House have a different view? And, if not --

MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, one, keep in mind when we talked about this earlier in the week that the Pentagon continues to be -- has been and continues to be the lead agency overseeing our efforts in Iraq. And Ambassador Bremer, in his role as the civilian administrator for the Coalition Provisional Authority, is overseeing the reconstruction efforts.

Secondly, look back at what the Secretary said. He said what we've been saying. He said that it came as no surprise to him because that's "what the responsibility of the NSC is and always has been." The NSC is a coordinating agency -- coordinating body for interagency process. And so that's exactly what this is about -- to help -- as we accelerate our efforts, this is a way to strengthen our assistance to the Pentagon and the Coalition Provisional Authority in their efforts in Iraq.

Q No, I understand. But, clearly, you were told, and passed on to us, that he was in on this from the get-go; that he was part of the discussions, that he knew all about it, that he had had input and so forth. And it turns out he had had none of those things --

MR. McCLELLAN: The Secretary pointed out that a memorandum was sent asking for interagency participation at the under secretary level. He pointed that out in the interview. Again, I think what he saying is exactly what we've been saying. This is an interagency coordinating group to help strengthen our assistance at a high level to the efforts going on in Iraq.

Q Scott, why does the President think it's a good idea to send troops from Turkey, a nation which has, in the past, had territorial ambitions in Iraq, which has difficult relations with Kurds there -- why does he think it's a good idea to send Turkish troops to Iraq?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, there are some 30, maybe 32 countries now that are participating in our efforts in Iraq with troops --

Q I'm asking about Turkey.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- and we've been working to make that international participation even broader, because of the importance of Iraq to the world, the importance of a free, democratic and prosperous Iraq to the world. And we welcome the decision yesterday by the Turkish government to send troops to Iraq. We are continuing to discuss specifics with the Turkish government at this point.

We are also continuing to talk with the Iraqi Governing Council on a variety of issues, including security forces, including troops. And Ambassador Bremer has been meeting with them and will continue to do that as we move forward.

Q Was the Iraqi Governing Council consulted in advance of Turkey's decision --

MR. McCLELLAN: You might want to direct some of those questions to the coalition about that. They could probably address that better.

Q Turkey's media is reporting that the United States has agreed to a deal with the Turkish government in which Turks would be allowed to crush the PKK, the Kurdish resistance movement against Turkish government and Turkey, in Iraq in exchange for Turkish troops.

MR. McCLELLAN: First of all, I haven't seen that report, so I'd like to take a look at that report before I get into it. But again, we're discussing the specifics with the Turkish government at this point.

Q Then just one quick question on the leak investigation. Do you know if the President or Vice President had to turn over documents as part of this document production?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think if you go back and look at the memo that was sent out to our staff that we provided to you, it spelled out who was covered by this. It said, any documents -- something to the effect of any documents in possession of the White House employee staff. And so, that's what I refer you to.

Q Does the President still retain complete confidence in Secretary Rumsfeld?

MR. McCLELLAN: Oh absolutely. He's doing an outstanding job.

Go ahead, Dana.

Q Given that what seems to be the, what is described in this interview as the tart tenor of Secretary Rumsfeld's response to this whole reorganization --

MR. McCLELLAN: I didn't take it that way. I don't think anyone here took it that way.

Q -- and him saying, when he's asked about it, him saying, you have to go ask Condi -- how could this whole thing not be perceived as a way to sideline Donald Rumsfeld from this process?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, he said that he wasn't surprised by it because, "that's what the responsibility of the NSC is and always has been." They're the coordinating agency for the interagency process. That's the role of the NSC.

Q So there was no concern, given Don Rumsfeld's response, that he certainly took this as a way to sideline --

MR. McCLELLAN: I think he was saying exactly what we've been saying that this group is about. It's an interagency coordinating body. There are a number of -- the NSC staff coordinates at a variety of levels. You have the principals committee, the deputies committee, the policy coordinating committee. So there are a number of -- and this is one of those levels, as well. So that's all -- and we have, with the wartime supplemental before Congress right now, we're going to have a lot more resources going to our efforts in Iraq. And it's important for the National Security Council to coordinate efforts here, at a high level, to assist the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Pentagon in their efforts in Iraq. We want to do everything we can to assist them in their efforts.

Q Did the President or Dr. Rice talk to Don Rumsfeld in the past couple days specifically about this to reassure him about his --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, they talk on a regular basis. But I'm not reading out any conversations they have, but they speak on a regular basis.

Q Scott, did the President intervene with Medicare conferees to try to ensure that seniors who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid do not get the drug benefit?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, this is one of the President's highest priorities on the domestic front. The President is strongly committed to passing a legislation that modernizes and improves Medicare for America's seniors. The President believes that all seniors ought to have access to prescription drug coverage, particularly low-income seniors who right now have no coverage. And that's why he's acting to strengthen and improve Medicare with more options and better benefits, so America's seniors can choose the care that best meets their individual health needs, just like members of Congress do now.

Q What about the question, though?

MR. McCLELLAN: What is your question?

Q Did he intervene with the Medicare conferees --

MR. McCLELLAN: We are working very --

Q -- to try to ensure that those who were eligible for Medicare and Medicaid do not get --

MR. McCLELLAN: We are working --

Q -- the drug benefit?

MR. McCLELLAN: We are working very closely with members of Congress to pass a strong Medicare bill. We proposed an additional $400 billion to meet this commitment. And it's important that we use those resources in the most effective way possible. And there are many low-income seniors who have no prescription drug coverage and are forced now to choose between paying their bills or buying the medicines that they need. So it's important that we make -- that we make use of those resources in the most effective way possible.

But we're continuing to work with members of Congress. As you know, it's not my habit to negotiate here from this podium. But we're working closely with members of Congress to get this passed so that all seniors have more options and better benefits, including access to prescription drug coverage.

Q It's a priority for him. Why didn't he mention it yesterday, Medicare, when he talked about his priorities after the Cabinet meeting?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the focus yesterday on the Cabinet meeting was on the economy, but it did come up in the Cabinet meeting. Medicare was discussed in the Cabinet meeting. But yesterday, our focus was on moving forward on our efforts to strengthen our economy even more and to create jobs.

Q One more, if I could. Has he called any, other than the first thing which you're not going to answer, has he --

MR. McCLELLAN: We've had meetings -- we've had meetings here at the White House. He talks to congressional leaders all the time.

Q Has he been calling members about Medicare, specifically calling conferees?

MR. McCLELLAN: He talks to congressional leaders all the time. I don't have any calls to read out at this point.

Q Scott, yesterday, you said, "we are not involved in the California election." And my question, the first of two: If next year's presidential election is as close as the last one, what will your position be, reaction be, if Governor Schwarzenegger's press secretary says, we are not involved in the federal election?

MR. McCLELLAN: It's a nice hypothetical, Les, at this point.

Q No, I just wonder what your reaction will be.

MR. McCLELLAN: I know you're trying to ask me about the campaign. There will be a time to talk about that. The time, right now, is to talk about our nation's priorities. That's where our focus is.

Q Page one of yesterday's Washington Post reported, "Just a few months ago, Governor Gray Davis disparaged the recall movement as a joke. Nothing more than political mischief by a bunch of right-wing gadflies and talk radio jocks." And my question, does President Bush in any way share Governor Davis' very low esteem of talk radio? (Laughter.)

MR. McCLELLAN: The President believes that all media outlets have an important role to play in keeping the American people informed about the decisions that are being made here in Washington, D.C.

Q Particularly talk radio, right, Scott?

Q Scott, on the leak --

MR. McCLELLAN: That's one of the important media outlets.

Q Thank you, very much.

Q Scott, on the leak investigation, will you sketch out a little more specific about the role that the Counsel's Office is playing institutionally within the White House in terms of liaising with the Justice Department, but also providing advice within the institution here? And does the screening --

MR. McCLELLAN: What do you mean providing advice? I think they're available to answer questions that staff may have.

Q Okay.

MR. McCLELLAN: But keep in mind that if there's something relevant to the investigation, that our Counsel's Office would be obligated to report it to the Department of Justice. And the role that the Counsel's Office is playing is one of assisting the Department of Justice get to the bottom of this, because no one has more of an interest in getting to the bottom of this than the White House does, than the President does. This is something that we want to get to the bottom of. And there are people inside and outside this administration that can help get to the bottom of this. And if people have information, they ought to talk to the Department of Justice about it so that we can find out who was responsible for doing this.

Q On the issue of getting to the bottom of this, does the review of documents, as they're being collected and collated and prepared to be transmitted, include a proactive look on the part of the Counsel to try, within the White House, to get to the bottom of the allegations and to find out who the leaker is or what happened?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, we've been through this a few times, but the Department of Justice, the career officials over at the Department of Justice, who have vast experience in these issues, they are the ones who are doing the investigation. They are the ones who are charged with investigating matters of this nature. And we want to do everything we can to assist them. So that's what we're doing, and we are working to get them the information that they requested as quickly as possible.

Q So there's no two-track process, in other words? I understand --

MR. McCLELLAN: We're assisting them in their investigation. They are the ones charged with leading this investigation and leading investigations of this nature. So that's what --

Q Scott, when do you have to get that information to the Justice Department?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there are some deadlines over the next couple of weeks, but we will be turning information over to them that is related to what they've requested as quickly as possible. So that process begins immediately.

Q Has there been any information handed over to the Justice Department --

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't have any updates at this point. Again, we just received all the information on our internal deadline last night, but we're moving quickly. I wouldn't rule out information going to them very soon.

Q And how many people were able to complete turning something in? I know there were some extenuating circumstances.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we were very pleased by the response, and it was -- the way I described it yesterday was substantially complete. There are some, as I noted there would be, that had some extenuating circumstances, that were on work-related travel, for instance, but I'm sure that those people will get it in as quickly as possible, too.

Q Well, were you able to finish up?

MR. McCLELLAN: I finished up Monday.

Q And how much stuff did you --

MR. McCLELLAN: Was it Monday? Today is Wednesday

Q And how much stuff did you turn over?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I talked about this yesterday. I had a stack of information. I think probably most of it probably wasn't really related to the investigation. But like, I think, other staffers in the White House, I wanted to err on the side of providing more information, rather than less.

Q Scott, the House is working on some language regarding Syria, really stepping up diplomatic pressures there. In the past the administration has opposed that. Has there been any change or shift? Are you talking at all with folks in the House who are working on this?

MR. McCLELLAN: We have talked to some of those leaders who are working on this issue, and we have expressed that we are not opposed to this bill. But of course, we would like to see the final language before moving forward on that. And I would remind you that we have repeatedly said that Syria is on the wrong side in war on terrorism, and that Syria needs to stop harboring terrorists. And that message has been sent loud and clear to the Syrians, as well.

Q Is there anything you can say about the stance of anyone else in the region, any other countries that have largely -- like Saudi Arabia -- largely helped us in the war on terrorism? According to your estimation, are they -- do they agree with our toughening stance on Syria? Have there been any communications?

MR. McCLELLAN: I appreciate the opportunity to speak for other countries, but I'll let them do that.

Q No, no, just our -- any dealings we've had with them on this subject.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we're in regular contact with many of those nations.

Q Can I quickly follow up on that?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'll come back to you.

Q A question: How late did the President stay up last night? Was he watching the California results? And who told him --

Q Or the Cubs?

Q Or at baseball game?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I did not -- no, I don't believe he made it through either of them. (Laughter.)

Q Okay, let me ask you a second question. California does have the largest block of electoral votes in the country, and they've been voting for the Democrats in quite a few presidential elections, I am sure, though, the President doesn't want get involved in that, right, he does consider California a victory for a Republican to be --

MR. McCLELLAN: There will be plenty of time to talk about the campaign. Obviously, the President will be reaching out to people all across the United States. But there will be plenty of time to talk about that when the time comes.

Q But it doesn't hurt him at all to have a Republican governor --

MR. McCLELLAN: This election just happened in California, and the President congratulated the Governor-elect. There will be plenty of time to talk about '04 later. But right now we'll stay focused on the issues at hand.

Q Scott, at the Security Council of the U.N., the majority of the countries opposed to the proposal, resolution proposal by the United States -- is the President considering to change the language of that resolution in order to get the support of countries like Russia, China and France?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, let's go back and talk about where we are in this process. I would remind you that we put forward a draft resolution in order to encourage even broader international participation and in order to meet our shared goal of transferring responsibility to the Iraqi people as quickly as possible, as soon as they are ready to assume that responsibility. So we put forward that draft. We consulted with members of the Security Council; we listened to some of the views that they expressed, and then we incorporated that into a new draft, to make some improvements to it, and presented that draft back to those members last week. And we have received feedback on their views on the new draft. We're continuing to consult with member nations to move forward on this resolution, and that's where it is at this point.

Q But have you received more opposition than support?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I would say that we're continuing to consult with members to listen to any views that they have. We have made some improvements to it, based on some initial conversations that we had. And we look forward to continuing to consult with members of the Security Council so that we can move forward on this resolution, because we have a shared goal of a free, sovereign and prosperous Iraq. And that's what we're all working towards.

Q Scott, you announced the Indonesia stop on the trip today. In general terms, how do you rate Indonesia's progress against what U.S. officials have long thought was a very serious al Qaeda --

MR. McCLELLAN: They've been working very closely with us in the war on terrorism, and we appreciate the cooperation we are receiving. And we will continue to work closely with Indonesia as we move forward in the war on terrorism.

Q Sizeable security fears on this stop?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q Sizeable -- are there not sizeable security --

MR. McCLELLAN: We'll have more on the trip when it gets closer to that time. I'm not going to get too much into the trip at this point. We'll have more closer in to that trip.

Q Scott, two questions, please -- actually, two-and-a-half. One, in two weeks, over one billion Indians will celebrate the festival of lights, what they call the Deepavali, and more than 2 million in this country. I might be making a side trip, also, to celebrate this festival in India and also visit Kashmir, to bring the latest what's happening in Kashmir. My question is that Indian Americans in this country are asking that White House celebrates, or President Bush celebrates most of the major other religious festivals here, or he issues statements, but never on the Deepavali, a festival celebrated by over one billion people. Is the President is going to make --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not sure on that. Let me look into it. Let me look into it, Goyal.

Q And second, the President also made a call on Sunday to Mr. Bobby Jindal, the first Indian American in the state of Louisiana as governor.

MR. McCLELLAN: That's right.

Q Is the President going to make any campaign -- final campaign for him?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we'll keep you posted on that. But the President looks forward to helping him in his election.

Q And the half question from my other H-1B visa. Is the -- the visa resolution going on in the Congress, if it comes to visa reduction or elimination of H-1B visa to President Bush's desk, is he going to sign that?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not sure. There's some different -- there's some different legislation on this matter before Congress. And obviously, we'll have discussions with members of Congress about that legislation. But I'd have to look at the specific legislation you're referring to.

Q I'd like to ask about the new LM-2 reporting forms for union political activities. Why are there no reports required until March of 2005? The corporate governance regulations went into effect immediately upon passage. Why isn't the same urgency attached --

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I don't --

Q -- to the matter so that union members can know where their compulsory dues are going?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, I don't know all the specifics that you referenced there. I think for specifics, you might want to talk to the Department of Labor. But if you go back to December of 2002, Labor -- the Department of Labor did proposed some regulatory changes to protect union members by improving transparency and disclosure. And we're moving forward on those efforts. I think they received some 35,000 comments and carefully looked at all of them as they were moving forward on this rule and the regulatory change.

But you pointed out a very important thing about the corporate governance efforts that we have undertaken to improve corporate governance and provide more information to shareholders. And these reforms will help

empower union members so that they can fully understand the financial situation of their union and rightfully exercise their democratic rights. They haven't been updated since 1959.

Q What is the White House assessment on the health condition of Yasser Arafat? And is the United States helping Israel dismantle any of these terrorist networks --

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I've seen the reports. But I don't know anything more beyond that. I've seen conflicting reports out of the region.

Q Is the U.S. helping Israel at all in dismantling the terrorist network inside the West Bank and wherever?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q Is the U.S. helping Israel in any way regarding the terrorist situation?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, what we're urging is for the Palestinians, through their Cabinet, to take steps to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure. All parties have a responsibility to fight terrorism. And those responsibilities -- that includes the Palestinians. They have a responsibility to work to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure. That is the way forward on the two-state vision, two states living side-by-side in peace and security that will benefit the Israelis, that will benefit the Palestinians, and that will lead to a brighter and safer and more peaceful future for everyone.

Q But has the U.S. gone beyond just urging?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I think I just addressed it.

Q Mr. Ahmed Qurei is going to the Palestinian parliament to seek appointment by his government. Are you plan to have a contact with them as such as with Mr. Abu Mazen before --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, with who?

Q Mr. Ahmed Qurei, the Palestinian Prime Minister, is going to Palestinian parliament seeking --

MR. McCLELLAN: Prime Minister Qurei?

Q Yes.

MR. McCLELLAN: Okay, and what were you asking?

Q So what's this government plan for contacting him and moving the peace process forward?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we are always in contact with the parties in the region. You might want to talk to the State Department about some specific contacts they've had with parties in the region recently?

Q At what level is that?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q Have we reached out to Prime Minister Qurei?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I think you might want to talk to the State Department about the contacts they have. I don't have any update from my standpoint.

Q So nothing --

MR. McCLELLAN: In terms of the President --

Q Nothing from Condi Rice, who was assigned by the President to be his point person --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, no, she stays in contact with the parties in the region, as well. I don't have -- I don't have any recent updates on this. I'll look into it and see if there are any more updates to make.

Q My question is a follow-up to James, which you already answered about Secretary Rumsfeld, who says he was not briefed in advance on Dr. Rice's Iraq group. But was Secretary of State briefed in advance?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I think he pointed out that the memorandum that was sent from the NSC asking for under secretary level support for the Iraq Stabilization Group. So he noted that.

Q Two things. Does the President agree with the -- Republican Party that NAFTA and GATT should be repealed and U.S. should get out of the U.N. and WTO?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think the President's made his views very well-known on all those issues, and I don't know the specific document you're referring to --

Q -- the platform --

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. The President has put forward what his views are and he's addressed all those issues.

Q Why do you refuse to answer the question whether Karl Rove said that Joseph Wilson's wife was fair game?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think we've been through this for now two days in a row.

Q You didn't answer the question --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I did answer the question.

Q But did he say it?

MR. McCLELLAN: I did answer the question.

Q Did he say it?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I answered that question, and we've been through it for two days now. And so, it's been addressed.

Q But what was the answer?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not going to go back through it again today, because we've been through it for the last couple of days. And I pointed out that there are some that are trying to politicize this investigation for partisan political gain, and that's unfortunate. There's an investigation going on and no one wants to get to the bottom of it more than this White House.

Q But why don't you just say --

MR. McCLELLAN: So I've already addressed that issue.

Q -- just say, I don't want to answer that.

MR. McCLELLAN: Anybody else? Dana, you have one?

Q On Syria, why now? The Secretary of State was in Syria complaining to them months ago. This is not a new idea from this administration that you're frustrated with Syria. Why change and allow Congress to go forward with this legislation?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, what we said is that, at this point, that we don't oppose the bill, but we want to see what -- we want to see what the final language is. But we've always said, just like members of Congress have, that Syria is on the wrong side in the war on terrorism, that Syria needs to change course, change its behavior, stop harboring terrorists. So that's a very clear message that we've sent.

Q If I could just follow on that, is it then an expression of the administration's frustration with Syria's unwillingness to change? We all know that there have been communications back and forth through various channels.

MR. McCLELLAN: I think I've been through it, and I'd describe it the way I did.

All right, thank you very much.

END 1:05 P.M. EDT