For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 10, 2003
Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Little Rock, Arkansas
11:25 A.M. EST
MR. McCLELLAN: Okay, let me run through the President's day. The President had his usual briefings before departing. And when we land in Little Rock the Freedom Corps greeter will be Dr. Michael Quick, he's an orthodontist who has practiced for some 20 years now, and has been offering free orthodontic care to patients in need who cannot afford dental services. He's also an active volunteer with Donated Dental Services, which provides free dental care to seniors and people with disabilities and low income Americans.
Following that, the President will participate in the Bush-Cheney 2004 luncheon in Little Rock. Then we depart for Greer, South Carolina. The Freedom Corps greeter in Greer, South Carolina, will be Robin Longino, L-o-n-g-i-n-o. She's been an active volunteer since 1999, with Hands On Greenville, which is a nonprofit organization that creates meaningful and flexible service opportunities for those with busy schedules. So if any of you are interested in volunteering, maybe you want to talk to this woman.
The President, also there, will meet briefly with Ben Comen, C-o-m-e-n, he is the high school cross country runner with cerebral palsy, who has recently been featured in Sports Illustrated, so that might be something of interest to you all.
MR. McCLELLAN: At the airport, yes. Then the President will go to the BMW plant in Greer, where he will participate in a conversation with workers and employers on our economy. As you've heard the President say, the economy is moving in the right direction, but we cannot be complacent, there is more to do. The President is not satisfied because there are people who are still looking for work who cannot find a job. And today the President will specifically highlight his six-point plan to strengthen our economy even more so that we can create a robust environment for job creation. He will focus on the importance of expanding free trade and opening markets. Free trade, as you all are aware, is the central component of his economic agenda and one of the key components of his six-point plan.
The conversation will include workers from the BMW plant in Greer, as well as from one of the plants suppliers, Spartanburg Steel Products, which is a supplier to the BMW plant.
Q Can you spell that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Spartanburg, S-p-a-r-t-a-n-b-u-r-g, S-t-e-e-l -- just kidding. Spartanburg Steel Products.
Q -- by the end of the day sort out for us how Spartanburg Steel did with the steel sanctions, whether they --
MR. McCLELLAN: You might have an opportunity to ask some of them that are there, but I'll see what I can do.
Q Obviously, if they were doing imports or got an exemption, we'd want to know.
MR. McCLELLAN: Understood. BMW is one of 330 -- some quick facts -- BMW is one of 330 foreign companies that operate in South Carolina and employ some 80,000 workers. This is the first BMW plant outside of Germany, and it employs 4,700 people. And as I mentioned, with Spartanburg Steel Products support -- the BMW plant supports a local network of suppliers, who employ another 12,000 workers.
Just to mention one other fact, the export of U.S. goods and services supports at least 12 million American jobs, including one in five manufacturing jobs in the country.
And then following the conversation, the President will attend the Bush-Cheney 2004 reception in Greenville, South Carolina, and then we return to Washington, D.C. this evening.
Q How much of the conversation is two-way?
MR. McCLELLAN: Sorry? It will be similar to the one on Friday. I expect he'll go around and hear from each of the individuals that are participating, and the President will interact with them along the way.
Q Open press?
Q Scott, the WTO, officials there are saying that the WTO will declare steel -- our steel tariffs illegal. Is that what you're hearing?
MR. McCLELLAN: I believe that the WTO report has now been publicly announced. Our response is that the steel safeguards that the President imposed were to provide our domestic steel industry an opportunity to adjust to import competition, the safeguards were put in place to give our domestic industry an opportunity to restructure and consolidate and become stronger and more competitive, and we believe that they are fully consistent with WTO rules --
Q Are consistent --
MR. McCLELLAN: That they are fully consistent with WTO rules. We will carefully review this decision and we do --
Q -- from this decision, and this is the final body?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there is a process where they have to adopt it in the coming days.
Q The sanctions, as they were originally written, diminished each year for three to five years -- I can't remember exactly how it sorted out. One of the theories at the time that the President imposed the safeguard was that even if you lost the ruling, which many thought was possible, that you would get the space you needed to restructure. Do you believe that enough time has passed that you've gotten that space so that you can safely not appeal this and still have gotten -- achieved your objective?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's kind of a creative way to get into a decision that the President is still reviewing with the ITC report. The WTO rules do allow for safeguard measures to be put in place for the purpose that we did. That's why I said that we disagree with the overall WTO report. Again, we are going to study it, look at its implications and go from there.
Q What's the timetable for a decision?
MR. McCLELLAN: On?
Q -- decision.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you're talking now about a decision on the actual safeguard --
Q What's the timetable for -- what's the timetable for whether to keep them in place?
MR. McCLELLAN: The ITC report remains under review. I'm not going to speculate about the timing of any decision or any decision, itself. We continue to listen to all interested parties -- consumers, producers and members of Congress and others, as well. And so it continues to be under review.
Q You seem to go out of your way to highlight this steel consuming company that supplies BMW. Why?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there are one of the suppliers that has benefited from our efforts to open markets. They have increased the number of employees over the past couple of years as a result of this BMW plant being located in Greer, South Carolina.
Q Do you know whether BMW, as a consumer of steel, has been hurt?
MR. McCLELLAN: Whether it has been hurt?
MR. McCLELLAN: You'd have to ask BMW those questions.
Q -- it would be great if the White House could get for us is whether BMW is one of those consuming companies that got an exemption, several hundred companies did. That would be important to know before the President went. And, also, the total number of exemptions the President issued would be a great thing to know -- he had to sign-off on the list that USTR gave him.
MR. McCLELLAN: USTR is putting out -- and also you should know USTR will be putting out a statement, if they haven't already, on the WTO report. And I'll see --
Q Is Zoellick --
MR. McCLELLAN: Talk to USTR about that, I don't know what his schedule is today, but they'll be putting out a statement and be ready to respond to questions. And they might be able to provide some more of that information, as well. But I'll see what I can do on my end, too.
Q Scott, the President has also got two fundraising stops. Is John Dean's decision to forego public finance --
MR. McCLELLAN: John? Who's John? (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: It's Monday. (Laughter.)
Q Is that decision --
MR. McCLELLAN: We'll leave the reporter unnamed. (Laughter.)
Q -- any impact on your fundraising, your campaign strategy, your targets for raising money?
MR. McCLELLAN: There is a democratic primary going on. There are a number of candidates and we'll let them work out their differences amongst themselves. The President is continuing to focus on the highest priorities of the American people -- that's creating jobs at home and making the world safer abroad. While, obviously, we continue to build support for the campaign and work to get the necessary resources to spread his message, the President is continuing to focus on the people's business for now.
Q Would he -- the President's target was justified, in part, by a need to match democratic expenditures. That justification came before Dean's decision. Are you going to -- is there an arms race going on in campaign financing? Are you going to have raise more money to meet what you say is necessary to meet the --
MR. McCLELLAN: Obviously, they're still determining who the democratic nominee will be. There will be a time when it will come down to where there are two candidates. And we look forward to that opportunity to -- obviously, our campaign, the President's campaign will work to make sure he has the resources necessary to spread his message. You might want to talk to the campaign about specifics on that front.
Q On Iraq, Administrator Bremer said yesterday, I guess it was, that he expects the situation there on the ground to get worse, that they don't have the intelligence that they need to combat these insurgents in the Sunni Triangle. And when the $87 billion starts coming in he expects new, you know, infrastructure targets and signs of progress that are going to be attacked. Does the President agree with that assessment? And what does he tell people, you know, that they're doing in order to make that not happen?
MR. McCLELLAN: We have essentially been saying the same thing for quite a while now.
Q That it's going to get worse.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I didn't describe it in those terms. I described it that there are difficulties that remain, that there are people that will -- there are terrorists who are desperate and they will continue to try to target the progress we are making. And the more progress we make, the more desperate they tend to become.
Now, keep in mind that most of Iraq is secure and peaceful. But there is a part of Iraq where dangers remain. It continues to be a dangerous place. That's why our military continues to stay on the offensive and take the fight to these terrorists. They will continue to carry out targeted strikes to bring these people to justice. These are people that are enemies of the Iraqi people, enemies of a peaceful, free and prosperous future for the Iraqi people.
And we will also continue to work with the Iraqi people to improve our intelligence gathering and act on that intelligence. And we also work to continue accelerating our efforts to increase the involvement of Iraqis in their own security. That's what we are doing. They're are very -- there are more and more Iraqis involved in the police forces and the border patrol in the protection of their critical infrastructure and in their civilian defense forces. And so that number is now -- I believe now some 100,000 Iraqis who are involved in those efforts. They have --
Q -- is different than things getting worse. Does he not agree with that prediction?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that -- as we have said, the more progress we make, the more desperate these killers become. They are remnants of the former regime, they're the Baathists, and foreign terrorists. They're also criminals that are in the country, as well. And they seek to spread fear and chaos. And the Baathists are no longer in power, and so they are becoming more and more desperate.
Q -- to go after these insurgents more? We saw bombing raids in Tikrit and they caught these -- there are reports that they caught the people responsible for the bombing at the Rashid. Was that a decision that sort of went to the President to, sort of, you know, seemingly increase the kind of punishment for these people if they try to mount these attacks?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President is in close contact on a regular basis with his military leaders, including those in the region. I think that the decisions on individual strikes are ones that are carried out by military leaders in the region based on needs on the -- their assessment on the ground. And I think that specific military action, you need to talk to our central command leaders in the region.
Q Scott, has the President read McCain's interesting speech last week arguing that we needed more troops and needed to configure them differently? And, if so, is he either disgusted with McCain or addressed --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, not all. I think that if you look back at his remarks that --
Q I'm sorry, his remarks --
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, if you look back at the Senator's remarks, there is a lot of shared priorities that we have.
Q There were a lot of shared priorities, but there was a difference in tactics. And I want to know --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, in terms of the troop levels, the President believes that our military leaders in the region are the ones who are in best position to make those assessments. And our military leaders in the region believe that they have the necessary troops to achieve our objectives. But we have a shared goal of a peaceful, free, and prosperous Iraq. And that's what we are all working toward.
Q Is Ambassador Blackwell in Iraq right now?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't get into all the specific travel of individual NSC staffers. Obviously, we discuss Dr. Rice's travel and keep you posted on that. But I just don't --
Q More broadly, there was some reporting over the weekend that --
MR. McCLELLAN: Deputy Secretary Armitage announced that he was going to the region, and has been to Saudi Arabia.
Q Is the United States unhappy with the performance of the Coalition Provisional Authority? Are we seeking to perhaps establish some other organization there?
MR. McCLELLAN: We are continuing to work closely with the Governing Council. Ambassador Bremer is focused on working closely with them right now on meeting the Security Council deadline of December 15th for the Governing Council to provide a timetable for drafting a constitution and holding democratic elections under that constitution. That's where our focus is.
Q We're going to stick with this group, then, and not seek to establish another one?
MR. McCLELLAN: We're continuing to work closely with the governing coalition. You're asking me to get into a bunch of speculation, and that's not something I intend to do.
Q No, just a "yes" or "no" whether you're to establish another group.
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, we continue to work closely with the Governing Council and focus on the upcoming deadline by the Security Council. Under Resolution 1511 that calls for the Governing Council to submit a timetable for -- and for democratic elections.
Q Can I phrase the question differently? If the Governing Council fails to meet the September 15th -- the December 15th deadline, or fails to meet the administration's expectations in the next few months, would the President consider an alternative structure?
MR. McCLELLAN: You can phrase it differently, and I will phrase it the same. That's getting into a lot of speculation, and speculation is just not something I intend to get into.
Q But is there any disappointment or sense that they have been dragging their feet on some of these important efforts, such as writing the constitution, setting elections?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, in terms of drafting the constitution, that's -- I'm glad you brought that up. That's why there is a -- the Security Council resolution deadline in place that calls for the Governing Council to submit a draft -- a timetable for drafting a constitution, a timetable for holding elections under that constitution. That's where our focus is. We're continuing to work with the Governing Council on meeting that deadline that's coming up very soon.
Q Are they going to meet it?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q Are they going to meet it?
MR. McCLELLAN: That's what we're continuing to work with them on, to make sure -- to work with them to make sure that they do meet that deadline.
Q Al Gore, yesterday in his speech, said that that the administration had used the war on terror as a way to grab power and reduce civil liberties. What's your response to that?
MR. McCLELLAN: The action that the President is taking in the war on terrorism is about making the world a safer and better place and making America more secure. That's exactly what we are doing. We also are working to better protect the homeland through a number of initiatives that we're undertaking. The tools that were passed in overwhelming bipartisan fashion by members of Congress in the aftermath of September 11th are important in our efforts to make America more secure and prevent terrorist attacks from happening in the first place. And, again, they enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support.
Q In past wars, restrictions on civil liberties have eased after the wars have ended. Do you anticipate that same cycle being followed?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, as you saw over the weekend in Saudi Arabia, the global war on terrorism continues. You have seen, once again, the true nature of terrorists who have no regard for innocent life. They are willing to take the innocent life of men and women and children, and the global war on terrorism continues. The President has always said that it will be a long war and it will require sustained effort. And the President has a responsibility to do everything he can to make sure that we are doing everything possible to protect the American people from future terrorist attacks. And that's what we are doing.
Q What's on the President's mind as he approaches Veterans Day tomorrow? He's giving a Vet's Day speech.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, actually two speeches tomorrow. The President will participate in the wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. And he will make remarks on Veteran's Day to pay tribute to our brave men and women who have served and sacrificed on behalf of their nation. He will pay tribute to all those veterans who have served in defense of freedom and making their nation -- making America a safer place.
Q How is Iraq going to fit in the speech tomorrow?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the speech at the Heritage Foundation will focus on the stakes involved in Iraq. The stakes are high in Iraq, and I think the President will talk about what we are doing to achieve our goal of a peaceful, free, and prosperous Iraq, and how that is central to prevailing in the war on terrorism and making the Middle East a place that is no longer a breeding ground for terrorism, making the Middle East a place that offers hope and the President talked last week about how free nations are peaceful nations.
Q Thank you, Scott.
MR. McCLELLAN: Thanks.
END 11:45 A.M. EST