For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 3, 2003
Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Birmingham, Alabama
9:41 A.M. CST
MR. McCLELLAN: How is everybody?
Q Good, how are you?
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me run through the President's day. He had his usual briefing aboard Air Force One a short time ago. Upon arrival in Birmingham, the Freedom Corps greeter will be Jason Nabors, N-a-b-o-r-s. He is a board member of First Look, which is a nonprofit organization that works to increase the number of youth and young adults involved in community service.
Then the President will go to CraneWorks. And CraneWorks is a small business that is involved in full service crane rental. They have seen a 70 percent growth in revenues over the past year, and added an additional 15 employees since January.
The President will meet briefly with the two owners of the company, they are brothers; and then the owner of another company shortly before the remarks. These are three small business owners.
And then the President will make remarks on the economy. I think there are 300-plus some people that will include small business owners and employees and community leaders at the event.
Q -- some small business owners --
MR. McCLELLAN: He'll meet briefly with them before the remarks.
Q These are the CraneWorks people, right?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, and then one other individual from another company, he'll probably reference those individuals in his remarks. It's just a brief meeting --
Q With the brothers, and then he's meeting with other people?
MR. McCLELLAN: He's meeting with three small business owners: the two brothers and one other small business owner from the area, as well, and I expect he'll reference that in his remarks.
Then in his remarks, the President will talk about how he is optimistic about the direction the economy is moving. He will talk about how he's not satisfied, though, because people are still looking for work and cannot find a job; and while our economy is growing, there is more to do and the President will talk about the need to act on his six-point plan to strengthen our economy even more to translate that growth into job creation.
Then the President makes remarks at the Bush-Cheney 2004 luncheon in Birmingham, and then we return to Crawford. That's the schedule.
Q Scott, will the President mentionthe attack on the Chinook that killed 16?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President often talks about the service and sacrifice that our men and women in the military -- and he has often said, and I believe he will continue to say, that we mourn the loss of every fallen soldier. They are serving and sacrificing for an important cause, in Afghanistan, in Iraq and elsewhere. The President has always said we mourn the loss of every life of our troops and our thoughts and prayers are with their loved ones, with their families. And we'll continue to talk about -- I mean, the President has talked about how there are dangers that still exist in parts of Iraq, particularly the Baghdad area, and the area north to Tikrit.
It's important that we continue to stay on the offensive, going after the Baathists and the foreign terrorists who are in the country, going after the criminals that Saddam Hussein released shortly before he was removed from power. It's also important that we continue to accelerate our efforts to involve Iraqis in their own security, and that's exactly what we are doing. We are, as the President said, adjusting to the enemy, to confront these dangers and improve the security situation.
It's also important that we continue moving forward on the reconstruction front and the democratic front, because as we move forward to bring about a more civil and stable society, that will help improve the security situation for the Iraqi people and for our troops. But, again, these Baathists and foreign terrorists who are in the country seek to spread fear and chaos and they want us to leave. But we are steadfast in our will and our resolve to see this through. We will prevail in this central front in the war on terror.
Q Is the President surprised at the sophistication of this particular attack? And, specifically, did they have access to these shoulder-fired missiles?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, I think there is still a lot being investigated about the specific attack from yesterday and I think you need to talk to our military leaders in the region -- get some specifics about the attack, and they are continuing to --
Q What did the President think --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- they continue to investigate. But, again, the stakes are high in Iraq. This is the central front in the war on terrorism. A peaceful and free and democratic Iraq will serve as an example to the rest of the Middle East, which has been a volatile region and a breeding ground for terrorism. It's important that we continue to stay the course. It's important that our military leaders have the tactical flexibility to adjust to the enemy, and that's what they're doing.
Q Are you concerned that if the President specifically addresses this attack and the 16 killed, that the President will then get into the situation where he's commenting every day on the death of a soldier? Is that why the President is not going to speak publicly and reference this?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the President speaks publicly often, and will continue to, about the outstanding job our men and women in the military are doing, and about the sacrifices that they are making to make the world a better and safer place, and to make America more secure. And he talks on a regular basis about the fact that we mourn the loss of every one of our fallen soldiers. They are serving and sacrificing for an important cause.
Q Some of the polls are showing that he's losing approval ratings on his, you know, activities in Iraq. Is he concerned about that? Is the administration concerned about that?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that the American [sic] recognizes that the President is providing strong leadership and taking decisive action to make the world a safer and better place and make America more secure. We have always said that difficulties remain, that dangers continue to exist, that there are still dangers in Iraq. And that is why we are working to improve the security situation, particularly in the Baghdad area and the area north of Baghdad. And our military is going to continue taking the fight to the enemy and finding them and bringing them to justice.
Q It seems as if the combat operations have resumed.
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q It seems as if the combat operations have resumed.
MR. McCLELLAN: The President said back in May, on May 1st, that the major combat operations are over, but he said that there are difficulties that remain and dangers that continue to exist. And we were very successful in moving quickly to remove a brutal and oppressive regime from power. There are remnants of that regime still in the country. There are foreign terrorists who have entered the country. There were some 100,000 criminals that were released that are dangerous people. And we will continue to go after those individuals.
Q Scott, yesterday was the single bloodiest attack in Iraq. The President's criticsare saying he has no plan. Why doesn't the Commander-in-Chief articulate what he plans to do to make sure this doesn't happen again, and to change the security situation on the ground?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that we have articulated our strategy. Ambassador Bremer has outlined the reconstruction plan, a very comprehensive plan, to move forward on the reconstruction side. Our military leaders are -- and he's also outlined a plan for moving forward on giving Iraqis sovereignty. It's a seven-step process that he outlined. Again, it's important we move forward on that front, to improve the security situation, as well as what we are doing on the military front, and working with the Iraqi people to improve the security situation. As Secretary Rumsfeld and others pointed out, some 85 Iraqis have died working to secure their country. We are continuing to increase the number of Iraqis involved in their own security. Some 100,000 that are involved in the police forces, the border patrol, the civil defense forces and in the Iraqi army and in the protection of the infrastructure.
Q How was he kept abreast of the event yesterday?
MR. McCLELLAN: He was notified in the morning by traveling staff, and then he was updated later in the day, as well.
Q By whom?
MR. McCLELLAN: By traveling staff.
Q Was he in contact with Rumsfeld on the phone, or anything?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't have any updates on that side. I mean, he's always in close contact with administration officials.
Q Is he at all concerned that there didn't seem to be a lot of Iraqis expressing any remorse or regret over the attack?
> MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, I think if you look at the Iraqi people, the Iraqi people overwhelmingly support coalition forces staying in Iraq until they finish their job. There has been a number of indications the Iraqi people appreciate what we are doing to improve the security situation. And as the President said, we will stay until the job is finished, an not a day longer.
Q Scott, Senator Roberts said on CNN yesterday that he had talked to, what he called, almost the top official in the White House, who gave him a pledge that led him to believe that the White House would give him "every document" that he wants about prewar Iraqi intelligence. Is that accurate?
> MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we -- well, one, I'll let him characterize his own thoughts about what information they have received or are receiving. We have had good conversations with the committee, and we will continue to work with the committee, as we have been doing, despite the committee's lack of jurisdiction over the White House.
Q How could Senator Roberts have been so mistaken? There's a huge gap between good conversation --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, I think you need to ask the committee, in terms of -- you need to direct those questions to Senator Roberts in terms of how he would characterize what we are doing. But we are working with the committee and trying to be helpful to the committee, to assist them in their efforts.
Q Scott, you say, "good conversations," and he says, "every document." There's quite a chasm between those two things. How could there have been such a miscommunication between the White House official and --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think he said, we're working in a spirit of cooperation, and we are working in a cooperative way with the committee. Keep in mind that the committee doesn't have jurisdiction over the White House. But at the same time, we want -- we want the -- we want to be helpful to the committee. And I think I'll let the senators characterize their remarks in the way that they best see fit. But I think that, again, we're both saying that we're working with the committee in a cooperative way.
Q Who was the official he talked to?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that they are in regular contact with staff at the White House, and I would just leave it at that.
Q Scott, what do you know about what the President is going to do tomorrow?
MR. McCLELLAN: We'll try to get you an update later today. We're still working on some of the details, trying to finalize that, and I'll try to make sure that we get you that update as soon as we can. But some of that is still being finalized.
Q The unemployment reportcomes out on Friday. Do you think the fast break that was shown last week is going to translate into job --
> MR. McCLELLAN: I don't make predictions on economic reports. Again, as the President has said, he is not satisfied because there are people that are still looking for work who cannot find a job. That's why it's important that we continue to act to strengthen the economy even more. We want to do more to translate that growth into job creation. I think the company that he's going to today, it's a positive sign that they have hired 15 additional people over the course of the last -- well, the course of the last year, since January. But small business is the backbone of our economy, and that's why it's important to act to create an environment where entrepreneurship and job creation can take hold.
Q How many total employees?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll get you that number, I don't have the exact number. But I'll get you that number.
Q Will we hear from the President today about the attack in Iraq?
> MR. McCLELLAN: He often talks about -- again, he often talks about Iraq, and I expect he will continue to talk about -- I'm sorry?
Q Nothing --
MR. McCLELLAN: He tends to talk in about every speech about how we mourn the loss the life and the sacrifices that our troops are making.
Q But he's not going to hold a --
MR. McCLELLAN: In many speeches, he --
Q But he's not going to say, the 15 -- the 16 lives that were lost --
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I think it's important to remember that there are a number of our men and women in the military who are serving and sacrificing. And we mourn the loss of every one who has fallen in the cause of defending freedom and making the world a better and safer place.
END 9:56 A.M. CST