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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 15, 2003
Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Fresno, California
9:30 A.M. PDT
MR. McCLELLAN: Okay, a few things. First of all, the President had his usual briefings this morning. In California today and tomorrow, the President will focus his remarks on our nation's two highest priorities, winning the war on terrorism and strengthening our economy.
Today, he will spend part of his time talking about the importance of expanding home ownership to improving economic security. And if you'll recall, in June 2002 -- we have a fact sheet on this -- the President outlined his home ownership initiative in Atlanta, Georgia. He announced the goal to close the home ownership gap by increasing the number of minority home owners by 5.5 million by the end of the decade.
Let me give you a little bit about the --
Q How is he doing on that goal?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he actually is going to talk about that. That's in your fact sheet, as well, in terms of how many new home owners there are since he announced the initiative. Let me go to Ruiz Foods, where we'll be and where he'll participate in a meeting on housing and the economy with some of the -- with the owners of Ruiz Food company. Let's see who else it will include -- Secretary Martinez, who is traveling with us and some new home owners that will participate in that meeting, as well.
Ruiz Foods is the largest manufacturer of frozen Mexican food in the United States. They have about -- they have over 1,200 employees, almost all are Hispanic. The company -- and the President will probably talk about this -- will soon launch Una Casa Para Mi Familia. It's a home ownership initiative aiming to help every Ruiz team member who wants to own a home. The program partners with the Department of Housing and Urban Development and their pilot project to raise home ownership levels and strengthen the local community. And it also partners with several private sector and non-profit groups to provide home buyer education and training to its employees.
One aspect the President will talk about on his home ownership initiative is the American Dream down payment fund, that the President proposed and unveiled in April, 2002, to help first-time home buyer families. Let me give you a little bit more on -- way back in June of 2002. The Home Ownership Initiative includes that, the American Dream down payment fund, and this provides $200 million in down payment funds that would be granted to states and local -- localities for down payment assistance. And then another part of his initiative was a single family affordable tax credit, to encourage developers to increase the supply of affordable homes. A third aspect was education for families about the process and responsibilities of home ownership, and a fourth, regulatory reform and simplification of the home buying process.
Currently, the House has acted on the home ownership -- actually the American Dream down payment act, and the Senate still needs to act on it.
So he'll participate in that meeting. Then he'll make remarks on the economy and his two highest priorities in the war on terrorism at Ruiz Foods. And then the President makes remarks in Fresno at a Bush-Cheney luncheon, and then this evening in Riverside at a Bush-Cheney reception.
And we have two statements. Do you have those -- did you already hand those out? We have two statements -- one on Japan's announcement about providing some significant financial assistance to the efforts in Iraq, and two, a statement by the President on the terrorist attack on the diplomatic convoy in Gaza earlier today.
Q Are those out in Washington, do you know?
MR. McCLELLAN: We will be putting these out momentarily on the ground in California, as well as in Washington.
Q What does it mean for the peace process?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, look at the President's statement. Let me -- should I just give it to you?
Q We don't have it yet.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let's give it to you now.
MR. McCLELLAN: Do we have a copy of the fact sheet?
MR. DECKARD: Yes.
MR. McCLELLAN: Hang on.
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm glad to take whatever questions. You have the statement from the President.
Q Has he made any calls to anybody as a result of this attack this morning?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President was -- no, not at this point. The President was informed by his National Security Advisor early this morning.
Q Was he awakened, or just informed after?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President was called early this morning. I believe he was already awake at the time, but early this morning.
Q He called him back in the Residence, before he had come down?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes.
Q What does it mean for the peace process, then?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I think if you look at -- if you look at the statement, again, there needs to be a unified security force under the Palestinian Prime Minister and a cabinet that is committed to dismantling the terrorist infrastructure. That is the way forward to the two-state vision outlined by the President on June 24th of a year ago.
Q Apparently, there's a dispute between the Prime Minister and Yasser Arafat over control of security forces.
MR. McCLELLAN: We continue to urge the Palestinians to unify those security forces under a Prime Minister who is empowered and committed to cracking down on terrorism.
Q Does he blame the Palestinian leadership for this --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you have in his statement what the President says, that the Palestinian Authority should have acted long ago to fight terror in all its forms. And the failure to create effective Palestinian security forces dedicated to fighting terror continues to cost lives. All parties have a responsibility to fight terrorism, and all parties need to take steps to work together to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure.
Q Does the Palestinian leadership bear some of the blame? Does the Palestinian leadership bear some of the blame?
MR. McCLELLAN: The failure to crack down on terrorism and dismantle the terrorist infrastructure continues to cost lives. And that's why we continue to urge Palestinian authorities to unify their security forces under a Prime Minister who is committed to and empowered to fighting terrorism.
Q That failure continues to cost lives, including these lives?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, you have the President's statement on that. I think I've just addressed that.
Q Scott, are you taking any additional steps to protect U.S. diplomatic personnel there?
MR. McCLELLAN: That's always a high priority. I think those decisions are made by the people on the ground.
Q Scott, it seems that things are going backwards in that part of the world. Is the President -- you're now referring to his vision. What kind of progress has been made? It seems like it's all going in the other direction?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, some important progress was made after Aqaba. Unfortunately, you had a Prime Minister in Prime Minister Abbas, who was taking some important steps to improve security. But he was undercut by Chairman Arafat. And we've always said there would be difficulties along the way, but we will continue to emphasize that the foundation for moving forward is a Palestinian Prime Minister and cabinet that is committed to fighting terrorism and has a unified security force under its command.
Q Will the United States feel free to retaliate for this attack?
MR. McCLELLAN: Look, we're going to work with appropriate authorities to bring those responsible for this vicious attack to justice.
Q Is the President going to say anything about this on mic later on?
MR. McCLELLAN: You have it in his statement. That's what I expect. I just expect the statement.
Q -- public remarks?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't expect him to. He made a very strong statement.
Q Isn't it stronger when he, himself, says it to the world?
MR. McCLELLAN: You've heard from him.
Q The Schwarzenegger meeting tomorrow, that is still closed? There is no plan for any coverage?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think at this point, again, this is a courtesy visit. The President is going to California and the Governor-elect was just elected. The President looks forward to meeting with him. The Governor-elect is expected to attend the event after the meeting, so they will be together there, so you will get a chance to see them together there.
But at this point, I think I would just plan on a photo release of the actual meeting between the two.
Q Schwarzenegger's not speaking, right? I mean, he'll be there?
MR. McCLELLAN: I believe he may be introducing the President. He may be introducing the President.
Q At the event?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes.
Q Was that their choice or your choice that there is no coverage of the meeting?
MR. McCLELLAN: This is a one-on-one meeting between the two leaders. You'll have coverage of them together at the event later. Those are always things that are discussed together.
Q What will the President's message to the Governor be?
MR. McCLELLAN: He looks forward to sitting down and meeting with him. Again, I think you should view this as a courtesy visit. While the President is in California, he wanted to congratulate him personally, and this will be an opportunity, too, to discuss some of their shared priorities.
Q Will the President do mostly listening to what the Governor brings to him?
MR. McCLELLAN: We'll try to give you a readout after the meeting. Let's let the meeting take place.
Q Has he got any goodies in his pocket to bring?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, this is the first time that they've had an opportunity to meet since the Governor-elect won his election last week. So I think the President looks forward to hearing from him, the President looks forward to visiting with him.
Q Does the administration now believe that a U.N. resolution is going to happen? Have you heard from France, Germany and Russia?
MR. McCLELLAN: We have made some additional changes to the resolution and we expect that as early as this afternoon there will be a vote on the resolution. So we are moving forward on this, believe it's a good resolution, and it's one step that will help broaden international support and participation in Iraq even more. There are already, as you are aware, a number of nations participating in the efforts in Iraq. The President has said that the international community shares a responsibility for helping the Iraqi people realize a secure, democratic and prosperous future. And there comes a time for countries to decide if they are going to join the other nations' international efforts in Iraq.
Obviously, we appreciate the announcement by Japan earlier today to provide some financial assistance.
Q Do you expect you have the votes for the U.N. -- this afternoon?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we expect to go forward as early as this afternoon. Secretary Powell and Ambassador Negroponte continue to have discussions with their counterparts.
Q -- with the votes? Discussions or votes?
MR. McCLELLAN: They continue to have discussions with their counterparts. The resolution is before the Security Council now. They I believe will be going back this afternoon to discuss the resolution, so that's why we expect a vote could happen as early as this afternoon. We believe we have addressed some of the concerns that were raised, that have been raised.
Q When were these additional changes made?
MR. McCLELLAN: There were discussions that occurred when the resolution was introduced yesterday, between that time and today. The discussions happened, changes were made I believe late yesterday.
Q Can you tell us about those changes?
MR. McCLELLAN: It addresses some of the issues in terms of the transferring of responsibility. What we put forward yesterday, yes, that's still a part of it. Anything else?
Q Do you know offhand how many times the President has been to Asia? I mean, not only as President but also as Governor and private citizen.
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll try to get you that number for tomorrow.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
9:45 P.M. PDT