For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 14, 2003
Press Briefing by Scott McClellan
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
12:40 P.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon. I don't have any announcements or statements to make, other than just a reminder that Dr. Rice will be briefing in this room at 3:15 p.m. on the Asian-Australia trip. And you might want to direct those questions to her at that time.
With that, I'll be glad to get started.
Q What questions?
MR. McCLELLAN: Related to Asia and Australia.
Q Scott, what are your thoughts about any poll results, the President has gone up in the polls? And I understand that many in the White House were very happy with the fact that his numbers were lower at one time because they thought people would look at him as the underdog and start funding his campaign. What are your thoughts now?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President is continuing to provide strong leadership to get things done; that's where his focus is, on our highest priorities. Obviously, I expect there will be a lot of polls between now and November, but he's going to continue focusing on the priorities for the American people.
Q But is it for better or for worse that he goes up --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, there are going to be a lot of polls between now and next November, I'm sure, and the President stays focused on the priorities of the American people, and that's what he will continue to do.
Q Scott, is the current U.N. resolution, the one that has been circulated last night and this morning, is that the final version that the U.S. intends to offer?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, this is a revised resolution. We think we've made some important improvements to it. We believe it is a good resolution. And it has been formally introduced or tabled with the Security Council earlier today, and so we are proceeding forward on this resolution. Obviously, there's a process in place and we will continue to work through that process. And Secretary Powell and Ambassador Negroponte continue to have discussions with their counterparts in the member -- regarding the members of the Security Council, and they will continue to have those discussions as we move forward.
But we are moving forward on this resolution, and believe it is a good resolution that has taken into account some of the concerns that were expressed by Council members.
Q Now, Kofi Annan said this morning it does not represent a major shift in thinking, especially with regard to the Iraqi Governing Council taking over and actually exercising sovereignty, aside from just being conferred sovereignty in the resolution. What's your sense?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, some of the improvements that we made related to the issue of sovereignty. It further defines -- the text further defines the vital role that the United Nations should play, and it addresses some of those concerns that were expressed about sovereignty.
For instance, it calls for the United Nations to play a vital role, as circumstances permit, particularly in the constitutional process and the conducting of elections. It also requests that the Iraqi -- the Iraqis provide a timetable for that constitutional process by December 15th. But, again, we think we've taken into account some of the concerns that were expressed.
Q One last thing on this. The U.N. role -- a vital role is something the President has been saying for a long time, but that's kind of a vague term that no one can quite determine what it means on the ground. The President vaguely talked about working on elections, and that sort of thing. So far, the U.N. does not quite see a role, according to Kofi Annan, that justifies the risk of going in. What more can you say?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, the United Nations has played a vital role -- such a vital role, you'll recall, that the U.N. headquarters was attacked by the enemies of the Iraqi people. And in terms of the vital role that the United Nations can play, they can play an important role in the humanitarian assistance and reconstruction and the constitutional electoral processes, just to name a few. And this draft, or this resolution requests the United Nations and the special representative of the United Nations lend their unique expertise to the Iraqi people in the process of drafting a constitution and conducting elections.
Q Scott, on that same point, as you know, the Russians have asked for more changes in the resolution. Are you prepared to massage the language any more?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, we're moving forward on this resolution. That's why we have formally introduced it earlier today before the Security Council. We believe it is -- we believe it is taking into account some of the concerns that were expressed, so it is an improved version. We believe it's a good draft. And I'm going to let our representatives at the United Nations work it with the Security Council members. There is a process in place for that. We'll continue to have discussions about it, and move forward.
Q Scott, are you looking for a vote tomorrow?
MR. McCLELLAN: Helen.
Q Wall Street Journal says --
MR. McCLELLAN: Wait, let me answer that real quick. Bob, Ambassador Negroponte has already stated that we would like to see a vote this week. And so we expect to move forward on it this week.
Q The Wall Street Journal says the Pentagon is in charge of reconstruction in Iraq. Is that true? Do they have the prime responsibility?
MR. McCLELLAN: They always have been the lead Department in charge of reconstruction and they continue to be. The Coalition Provisional Authority, headed by Ambassador Bremer, is responsible for the reconstruction side of things in Iraq, and Ambassador Bremer reports to Secretary Rumsfeld. I think the article --
Q So what's all that shouting been about?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think the article that you're referring to today is something that they're creating within the Coalition Provisional Authority. That department or that arm --
Q Is that something new?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- that will be an arm of the Coalition Provisional Authority as they receive additional resources for the reconstruction efforts.
Q That's not different? I mean, it doesn't give it more power or whatever?
MR. McCLELLAN: It continues -- the Pentagon continues to be the lead agency. And as the lead civilian administrator, Ambassador Bremer is overseeing those reconstruction efforts.
Q And, Scott, on the question of sovereignty in Iraq, can you just explain for people who might not understand the administration's reasoning, why the President doesn't believe it's appropriate or right to have the Iraqi Governing Council which is now sitting at these international bodies and, under the U.S. resolution, would report directly to the Security Council, why shouldn't they hold the sovereignty of the nation?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we want to see a free and democratic Iraq governed of, by, and for the Iraqi people; elected by the Iraqi people. Obviously, in a situation like this, when you had efforts after World War II in Germany and Japan, we did not walk away from those efforts in Germany and Japan. And we will not walk away from this effort, as we help the Iraqi people transition to a secure, free, democratic and prosperous Iraq.
The Iraqi Governing Council is a representative body of the Iraqi people, and we are continuing to work closely with them and the international community as we move forward on our shared goal of transferring responsibility as quickly as possible to the Iraqi people. But it's important that the institutions of democracy are in place, and that you have a functioning civil society in place before moving forward on those elections.
Q But if I may, since sovereignty seems to be the sticking point with a lot of the nations at the United Nations, are you concerned that the Iraqi Governing Council isn't in favor of a free and open and democratic Iraq, that if they once got the sovereignty they wouldn't give up the power? Is there a concern of that? Why shouldn't they just assume it if they're playing this role?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, because what -- we're now four and a half, five months after I guess major combat operations have ended in Iraq. We are moving rather quickly to have a free, sovereign and democratic Iraq. And we're working with -- that's why the Iraqi government was put in place. And what you're seeing is more and more responsibility is being assumed by the Iraqi people as they are ready to assume those responsibilities.
So we will continue to work through this process and move as quickly as possible. And the resolution that has been brought up here today -- that's why we spelled out that by December 15th the Iraqis should provide a timetable for a constitutional process and elections, and then we'll be in position to turn full authority over to the Iraqi people once those elections are held.
Q But until those elections are held, Ambassador Bremer and the Coalition Provisional Authority hold the sovereignty of the nation of Iraq and exercise power?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, keep in mind, there are a lot of local councils, as well, city councils and town councils in place. So, again, people are -- the Iraqi people are continuing to assume more and more responsibility and we will continue working with them to transfer responsibility as quickly as possible so that we can realize a time when Iraq is governed of, by, and for the Iraqi people.
Q But, Scott, so if the Pentagon is in charge of Iraq reconstruction, what is Condi Rice in charge of? Can you explain that to me?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, she is -- as the National Security Advisor, she is responsible for helping coordinate interagency policy when it comes to our foreign policy --
Q She's not in charge of Iraq? I thought she was as of last --
MR. McCLELLAN: In what way?
Q Well, the new Iraq strategy group that now -- I don't understand how this is working.
MR. McCLELLAN: We made it clear last week when this came up that the Pentagon is the lead agency and the Coalition Provisional Authority reports to the Pentagon; Ambassador Bremer is overseeing, as the civilian administrator, is overseeing the reconstruction efforts. And that has not changed. They continue, the Pentagon continues to be the one overseeing the reconstruction in Iraq.
I think what you're referring to is the Iraq stabilization group, and what that is, is just another coordinating group within the National Security Council structure. You have the principals committee, the deputies committee. And so this would be at a level under that that would have -- it has four different cells. Really what this group is, is just four separate cells that will --
Q Can you get us a chart?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- well, I'll explain it to you right now -- that oversees counterterrorism, economic issues, political institutions, and communications. And it's at the under secretary level. Each of those cells will have a National Security Council staffer responsible for overseeing it. But, again, this effort is to assist what is going on over in Iraq. But nothing has changed in terms of the budget or the way we do the budget process now.
Q Scott, the President, it seems by referring to the national press corps as the filter and talking about a need to talk over our heads, seems to be borrowing a page from his father who, during his reelection campaign asserted that you should "blame the media." If the President believes that there's so much progress on the ground in Iraq, then why does he feel the need to hop-scotch over the national press corps and speak to local and regional outlets who don't cover these issues every day and don't seem to follow up --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think he speaks to all media. He speaks to the media at the national level, he speaks to media at the local level. And those are all -- it's all important for the President to get his message directly to the American people. And that's what he'll continue to do.
Q Right. And what he said yesterday was that -- he talks about this "filter." I'm not sure how many people understand that, but he says that you've got to -- you're dealing with this filter so you've got to talk over their heads and talk directly to the American people, and that's what he will continue to do. So my question is, if things are going so well, why the need to start devising strategies to go around and circumvent and hop-scotch --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I would disagree with the way you characterize the question. I disagree with the premise there. But the President believes --
Q -- his words were pretty simple.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, those weren't his words. The President believes it's important for the American people to hear the full story about the progress we are making in Iraq. We are making a tremendous amount of progress to move toward a free, sovereign, democratic Iraq. And there is a lot of important progress being made on the ground.
The President earlier today spoke with Secretary Evans who is over there. The Iraqis will be unveiling a new currency, one without Saddam Hussein's face on it. And that's another important step on the economic front. Secretary Evans, like many others who have gone over to Iraq and have come back, said, told the President that there's a tremendous amount of progress being made here, that I don't think the American people are seeing.
And you had other examples. You had Bernie Kerik, the former Police Commissioner in New York City, who went over there to help establish the Iraqi police force. And he came back, and on the South Lawn with the President, talked about some of the progress that we are making, and talked about the importance of what we are achieving in Iraq.
You had others that were part of the reconstruction effort, Americans that have been part of the reconstruction effort that came back, met with the President, and they went out here at the White House to talk to you all and tell you that there is a lot of progress on the ground. I mean, there is -- schools are now open, hospitals are functioning, children are being immunized against preventable diseases, electricity generation is above pre-war levels, oil production is up to around 2 million barrels a day. So there's a lot of important progress being made, and it's important for the American people to hear that story.
Q And all of that is on par with the security problems on the ground? In other words, American press corps, foreign press corps on the ground in Iraq are not telling the whole story to their various populations?
MR. McCLELLAN: There is a part of the story that is not getting the attention that we believe it should receive. But on the security front, we are continuing to make important progress there, as well, because we're taking the fight to the Saddam holdouts, the remnants of the former regime. We are taking the fight to the foreign terrorists in the region. We are taking the fight to the terrorists in the region. And we will continue to do that.
Q Scott, is the President glad that the Supreme Court has agreed to take the Pledge of Allegiance case, and will the administration file a brief on that?
MR. McCLELLAN: We have said that we felt it was a wrong decision in the first place, and we're pleased that the Supreme Court has taken that matter up.
Q Can I just follow up very quickly on David's question? I'm sorry, Terry, go ahead.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, you want to finish on this?
Q Are you going to file a brief on that? Do you expect to?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we'll keep you posted, but keep in mind that you have a Declaration of Independence that refers to God or the Creator four different times. You have sessions of Congress each day that begin with prayer. And, of course, if you look on our own currency, it says, "In God We Trust." So we believe the Pledge of Allegiance is an important right that ought to be upheld by the Supreme Court.
Q Just very briefly, do you know if Secretary Evans is staying overnight in Baghdad when he's there? Because the congressional delegations stay in Kuwait.
MR. McCLELLAN: I would check with Secretary Evans. I don't know his schedule.
Q Scott, in terms of violence, there was another car bombing or suicide bombing today. Are you saying that when things like that happen -- and they seem to happen all too frequently -- you're not going to talk about that, you're not going to talk about the fact that there are security issues?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, in fact, we have. And we've never said that there wouldn't be difficulties along the way. And keep in mind, when we're talking about only being five-and-a-half months away from when major combat operations are over, that we have made significant progress on the security front, if you look at the north and south. We're still focused on the Sunni Triangle area where there are some dangers that exist. There are some dangerous people in Iraq, and we're continuing to go after those killers.
Iraq has become the central front in the war on terrorism, and the world has a stake in what is going on in Iraq. We are working to achieve a free, democratic, and prosperous Iraq, because it will serve as an example for the rest of the Middle East, a region that has been a breeding ground for terrorism.
Q What do you say to journalists who are on the ground, who are getting a broad view of what is going on, on the ground, not necessarily a view inside a congressional delegation, who say that, yes, there are good things going on in the hospitals and the schools that you talk about, but as good as those things are, you don't have security, which is really, they say, a top concern for Iraqi people. That is the most -- one of the most important things to report back. How do you -- how do you respond to that, vis-a-vis what the President is saying --
MR. McCLELLAN: That's what I said, that it's important for the American people to hear the full story. Again, what you see is the more progress we make, the more desperate the holdouts of Saddam Hussein's regime and foreign terrorists become. They become desperate because of the progress we are making, and they know that when we succeed in Iraq, that we will have dealt the enemy a significant blow in the war on terrorism. And it's important that we continue to move ahead on all fronts. We are working -- there are some 30 countries that are helping us with the security situation in Iraq. The Iraqi people are assuming more and more responsibility for their own security through the police forces, through their own army. The first battalion of that army graduated just about a week-and-a-half ago.
So there -- we're moving forward on the security front. But it's also important to keep in mind the progress we're making on the economic front and on the democratic front, and creating a functioning, civil society. And so, it's important to highlight those successes as we move forward. And that's what we're doing.
Q Scott, a number of Democratic senators, including Daschle, sent a letter to the President today asking him to take action against Japan and China, which they said are manipulating their currencies in trying to get an unfair trade advantage. Does the President think that these countries are unfairly -- are manipulating their currencies? And what does he plan to do about it?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, one, I think you might, because we're going to have some meetings coming up on this trip, you might want to direct some of these questions to our briefer later today. But the President has made it very clear that we need free trade, but there needs to be a level playing field. And we will continue to take that message to those governments.
Q Would you support an investigation, though, of these two countries in particular?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we're continuing to talk to those countries about the importance of a level playing field when it comes to free trade, and that's what we will continue to do.
Q Scott, a vote last week in the Senate committee was canceled on the nomination of Mike Leavitt, the EPA Administrator, because Democrats boycotted the meeting. What is -- another vote is scheduled for tomorrow. What has the White House been doing to try to ensure that these Democrats show up?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, Governor Leavitt brings tremendous expertise and experience to the position of EPA Administrator. He is well-qualified to serve in that post. He is someone who has a strong record of working to improve the environment through a consensus-building approach that focuses on getting things done, that focuses on results. Like the President, he is someone that believes in bringing people together around common areas so that we can achieve some meaningful results. And we are urging the Senate to move forward in a bipartisan way and vote him out of committee this week so that the full Senate can then vote on his nomination.
Q Senator Clinton said last week that although she's gotten some documentation from the administration concerning the controversy about what EPA said regarding air quality standards around the World Trade Center site after September 11th -- she says she's gotten some stuff from you. She said she wants more.
MR. McCLELLAN: We've met with her, as well. Members of the administration have met with her, as well.
Q Has she gotten everything that she's going to get on this? Is she going to get some more information? She's looking for answers. She said: actions and answers still from the administration. Is there anything more that --
MR. McCLELLAN: And we've always been welcome to talk to -- we've been happy to talk to her about those issues and, in fact, we have.
Q Scott, a couple things. Pat Robertson said this weekend that he wanted to nuke the State Department. The direct quote is, "If I could just get a nuclear device inside Foggy Bottom, I think that's the answer. You've got to blow that thing up." Does the President have any reaction to that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. I think that, one, he has since said that he should not have said that and changed what he said. But I do not view those as helpful comments. And it was wrong for him to say that.
Q That's it? Wait, wait. (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: No, no, those were harmful comments. He has now since said that he should not have said that.
Q Second question. In the past seven months, 11 soldiers and three Marines have committed suicide in Iraq. About a dozen more Army deaths are being investigated as suicides. According to a front page USA Today article yesterday, these numbers suggest a rate in Iraq of suicide above normal. Does the President have any thoughts about why this is happening?
MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't seen the specific reports, but you were talking about who?
Q U.S. Army and Marine suicides in Iraq.
MR. McCLELLAN: I think you need to direct those questions to the Pentagon.
Q Can I follow up on Pat Robertson?
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead.
Q Will the President -- besides not finding those comments helpful, I wonder if the President feels that he should have no involvement with Pat Robertson, whatever, going forward, and that Pat Robertson should not play any role in any kind of unofficial way in helping him in reelection, in any kind of supportive role.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, again --
Q Would the President like Robertson to keep his distance?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I think that those comments were harmful. And he, himself, said that he should not have said that. I think the comments were wrong, and he has since said so.
Q So it's all forgiven?
Q Back to the U.N. resolution, Scott. You said in the past that you're hoping that perhaps the wording that comes out of the Security Council will help unlock further contributions of troops and financial contributions. Do you still think that, or are we past that now?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, the President said that he would like to see more countries involved in our efforts to stabilize and rebuild Iraq. And that's what this resolution is there to help do. The international community, not just the United States, has responsibilities to help the Iraqi people build a brighter future. Again, the world has a stake in what is going on in Iraq.
Q But do you think you really need this, or would this just be nice to have?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we continue to work to broaden international support. We have a lot of international support already in Iraq, but we believe that this is a good resolution that will help encourage even broader participation in Iraq. So we are moving forward on this resolution.
Q Scott, back to Dr. Rice's office and responsibility. If a month ago there was to be an organizational chart, as opposed to today, in terms of responsibilities -- you know, who reports to who in Iraq -- would there be a difference?
MR. McCLELLAN: Would there be a difference?
Q In other words, if we were to make an organizational chart from a month ago to when the memo came out --
MR. McCLELLAN: That's a pretty broad question, but, no. The NSC has a number of different coordinating levels within it, and this is another interagency coordinating group that, again, focuses on those four specific areas to assist efforts over in Iraq. But that's a very broad question. I don't know if you have a more specific question.
Q Just in terms of the Defense Department, reporting responsibilities, that kind of thing, who reports to who.
MR. McCLELLAN: The Pentagon is the lead agency in Iraq. And they're overseeing the efforts there. The Coalition Provisional Authority is leading the reconstruction efforts, headed by Ambassador Bremer, who is the civilian administrator. That has not changed.
Q Two questions today, please, Scott? Thanks. If the President's unfiltered media campaign is successful in getting
the good news message out about Iraq to the American people, might he do the same thing about the news coverage about the economy?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President is going to continue talking about the steps that we are taking to improve the economy, and the additional steps that Congress needs to take to strengthen our economy. And that's what he will continue to do. I don't -- you're trying to make a broader issue of this one issue. Again, when it comes to Iraq, we think it's important for the American people to have the full picture, and to be able to hear about the important progress we are making on the ground there.
Q Second question. Nicholas Kristof wrote in Saturday's New York Times that the CIA suspected that Aldrich Ames revealed Valerie Plame's name to the Russians prior to his espionage arrest in 1994. A sensible person can, therefore, conclude that she hasn't been a covert operative for over a decade. Doesn't this support the theory that the CIA's request for an investigation of the White House for a leak that wasn't a leak is some kind of political payback?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, look, this is being handled by the Department of Justice. We are, at the direction of the President, cooperating fully. We want to help the Justice Department get to the bottom of this as soon as possible. And that's what we're doing. So let's let the investigation continue.
Q Thank you. I also have two. Do you have anything on the reports that Osama bin Laden's son is in Iran and directing al Qaeda activities?
MR. McCLELLAN: One, we have made it very clear to Iran that they need to turn over to the country of origin, or the United States, any al Qaeda members that are in the country. I'm not going to get into details beyond that, but we've made it very clear what Iran needs to do, and they have heard that message, and they need to act on that message.
Q And one other. I know it's a Pentagon-type story, but does the White House have any thoughts on this report that the body armor for U.S. troops has been delayed?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I think that you need to direct that question to the Pentagon. My understanding is that, one, all the troops have protective vests already, that there's some new, improved protective vests that they're working to get to them as quickly as possible that would provide additional protection. And I would direct further questions to the Pentagon on that.
Q There is a continuing fighting in Colombia between government forces and guerrillas. What more, if anything, can the administration do to help the regime of President Uribe?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, as you remember, President Uribe was here recently and met with the President. They had a good discussion. We will continue to work together with Colombia in the -- in their efforts to crack down on terrorism, as well as crack down on drug trafficking.
Q I have one more question.
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead.
Q How important is the Cuban American vote to the President's election bid?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President believes that the policies and the steps that he has taken are the right decisions, and we'll let the American people make those judgments.
Q Scott, the AP reported from New York that Kweisi Mfume said that while President Bush can cross oceans to meet with black leaders in Africa, he has refused to meet with the NAACP's leaders ever since he became President. And my first of two questions, is this refusal because the President realizes that the NAACP is really a Democrat Party front group?
MR. McCLELLAN: Look, the President meets with African American leaders all the time. He believes in reaching out to --
Q He hasn't met with them.
MR. McCLELLAN: He meets with African American leaders all the time --
Q Not the NAACP.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- from religious leaders to others. He met with Reverend Jackson and the head of the Congressional Black Caucus at the Urban League. He spoke to the Urban League, he met with the Urban League.
Q They said that was not a meeting. They said that was for those people in that picture, that was not a meeting.
MR. McCLELLAN: Can I finish, please? He spoke before the Urban League and met with African American leaders at that event. So he meets with African American leaders all the time.
Q They said that was not a meeting. They were requesting, at that time a meeting --
MR. McCLELLAN: Do you want to finish, Les?
Q I'll always yield to my dear friend here. Does the President believe that the law enforcement personnel of his brother's state of Florida should not be legally investigating procurement and use of so many thousands of pain-killing drugs because part of them were a doctor's prescription for Rush Limbaugh?
MR. McCLELLAN: Sounds like a question for Florida.
Q No, but what does the President feel?
MR. McCLELLAN: About law enforcement in Florida?
Q Yes, about this particular case. Should they be investigating this or not?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know the specifics of the investigation, or if there is any investigation underway. I think you need to direct that to the appropriate people in Florida.
Q Does the President know China is going to launch the first manned space shuttle, and is he going to follow? And what would you say to the first Chinese astronaut?
MR. McCLELLAN: We understand that they are -- that they do have a mission ready to launch this week. And we are continuing to focus on our own space program and space exploration. That's what we're doing.
Q There are still people in Iraq that are not satisfied with the fact that Turkish troops will be coming to Iraq to assist. What is the U.S. government doing to quell those fears?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Ambassador Bremer and others have been talking directly with the Iraqi Governing Council about some of the issues involved there. We are also continuing to work out the specific details with the Turkish government when it comes to troops.
Q Where they'll be located?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we're continuing to talk about the specific details with the Turkish government.
Q And the next question. President Bush is traveling to California tomorrow. I understand he will be meeting with Governor-elect Schwarzenegger. Has the meeting been set up? Is there a date and a time?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, Thursday. The President looks forward to meeting with Governor-elect Schwarzenegger Thursday on his trip to California. And I'm sure they will have a number of issues to discuss.
Q Is this a one-on-one?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry? Yes, yes it is.
Q Are they going to work out together, as well?
Q Back to the issue of cleaning out the filters on Iraq here. The President said in one particular interview that the American people are not hearing the truth about what's going on in Iraq -- his words. What does he believe he has seen in the coverage that does not reflect the truth?
MR. McCLELLAN: He was saying exactly what I said earlier, that the American people are not getting the full story --
Q That's not what he said. He said the truth.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- about the progress that we are making in Iraq. And that's what --
Q He said, the truth. And you know how he likes to cast things in terms of -- in very stark terms of black and white. The opposite of truth is lies.
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, he talked about the filter, as David pointed out earlier, and he said he's mindful of that, and that it's important to take his message directly to the American people. And that's what he will continue to do.
Q Did he misspeak himself then when he said that Americans aren't getting the truth about Iraq?
MR. McCLELLAN: You can look back at the full transcript. He was referring --
Q I did.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- he was talking about the importance of making sure the American people have the full story about the progress that we are making in Iraq. That's what he was talking about.
Q He didn't say, "the full story," he said, "truth." And I'm just wondering if the President believes that any of the coverage he has seen out of Iraq does not represent the truth.
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I just answered your question.
Q Scott, there's another round of base closings coming up around the corner. Given the worldwide deployments, does the President feel like more bases need to be closed?
MR. McCLELLAN: There's a process in place to make those determinations. And that goes through the Defense Department process.
Q Scott, there's apparently an agreement that has been worked out between the opposition leaders in Israel and Palestinian leaders, that they're calling the Geneva Accords. Is that -- something with very specific steps that would lead ultimately to some kind of peace. Is that something that's helpful, to have this kind of --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we believe that the road map is the way forward in the Middle East, that it offers the best way forward to the two-state vision that the President outlined on June 24th, 2002, here in the Rose Garden. And so we continue to be committed to pursuing that road map and working with all parties to meet their responsibilities under that road map.
Q Are the so-called Geneva Accords undermining any chance the road map will get back on track?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, if you're talking about people taking steps that might help with a peace process, that's always welcome. But we believe that the way forward is the two-state vision outlined by the President under the road map.
Q Scott, the donors conference on Iraq is coming up later on next month. What is the administration doing in terms of convincing allies in other states to forgive or at least reduce some of the debt that Iraq has, which is now well over $100 billion?
MR. McCLELLAN: Iraq was saddled with a debt from the previous regime that was more interested in building palaces and monuments to itself than helping the Iraqi people. And we have made it clear that we do not believe the Iraqi people should be saddled with that debt. We're continuing to look forward and move forward to assist the Iraqi people build a brighter future and build a strong infrastructure for a functioning civil society.
Q -- see any progress on debt reduction? Because I know France and other countries are refusing to do it bilaterally.
MR. McCLELLAN: We're continuing to have discussions with other countries.
Q And the position of the government of the United States is that that should be forgiven?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we've made it clear that they were saddled -- this debt was left with the Iraqi people because of the former regime, and that they should not -- that the current Iraqi people should not be saddled with that debt.
Q The precedent would then stand that when regimes change from one way or another, countries shouldn't carry on their debts?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that's speculating on other matters. But what we're doing is continuing to work to broaden international assistance to the people in Iraq. We're continuing to have those discussions with members of the international community, as well.
Q Liberia? Scott, Liberia?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes.
Q The new interim government in Liberia?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that -- it has been a successful approach in Liberia, and they are moving forward with the new government. And that's a welcome step forward for a better future for the people of Liberia.
Q Thank you.
MR. McCLELLAN: Thanks.
1:14 P.M. EDT