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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 16, 2004

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

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12:11 P.M. EST

MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon, everybody. We'll go straight to questions.

Q Does the President have any new ideas --

MR. McCLELLAN: Did I call on you? (Laughter.)

Q Yes, I'm "question." (Laughter.)

MR. McCLELLAN: Terry Hunt, with the AP. Go ahead.

Q Does the President have any new ideas that he wants to present to Mr. Bremer about how to proceed in Iraq?

MR. McCLELLAN: Terry, this meeting today is just part of the ongoing discussions. Ambassador Bremer has been back and forth between Washington and Iraq a number of times, and I expect he will continue to do so as we move forward on transferring sovereignty to the Iraqi people in a quick and orderly way. So that's all that this meeting is about. They will continue to talk about a number of important areas where we're making progress.

Certainly, there was an agreement between the Governing Council and the Coalition Provisional Authority, the November 15th agreement on the way to move forward on transferring sovereignty in a quick and orderly fashion to the Iraqi people. That was something that was worked on by the Iraqis and agreed to by the Iraqi Governing Council.

And then Secretary General Annan, as you are aware, called for a meeting at the United Nations and the Governing Council will be represented there, and Ambassador Bremer will be attending that meeting, as well. So this is all part of ongoing discussions about moving forward on the things that we have previously discussed and previously worked on. We are going to continue to work to assist the Iraqi people as they assume more and more responsibility and as they move forward in our efforts to transition to sovereignty as soon as possible.

Q No change in plans, then?

MR. McCLELLAN: In terms of what?

Q Well, you know, there is some call for direct elections. So you're saying that there's not going to be any major changes --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I would encourage you to look back at the November 15th agreement. The November 15th agreement was something that was worked on by the Iraqis and agreed to in order to transfer sovereignty in a quick and orderly fashion. I would point out that in doing so, that is another step that will not only help the Iraqi people assume full responsibility for their country, but help improve the security situation for their future, as well. And that process, that November 15th agreement calls for free and fair and open and direct elections by the end of 2005, that's spelled out as part of the agreement.

Q But not before July --

MR. McCLELLAN: So we're moving forward. There is -- at this point I would say that we are engaged in an active, ongoing dialogue with the Iraqi Governing Council regarding the transition of sovereignty to the Iraqi people, as agreed to in the November 15th agreement. And we will continue to look -- or continue to discuss with the Governing Council and other Iraqi leaders the way forward within that existing framework of the November 15th agreement.

Q Are you opposed to direct elections, which is really the most --

MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, I think that that's --

Q -- personified way of democracy, because the Shiites, obviously, would win big?

MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, I think that -- well, one, I totally just reject that characterization because I just mentioned that the November 15th agreement calls for free, fair, open, and direct elections by the end of 2005. Go back and look at the November 15th agreement. Now, I would remind you that Secretary General Annan was the one who indicated to the Iraqis that elections at this time are not the best way forward. And we agree. It's important --

Q Why?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Helen, I think it's important to have the institutions for democracy and elections in place so that you can have a free and fair and open and direct elections. And we're moving forward quickly on that effort, and the November 15th agreement is a way to get there.

Q But they don't know the process of caucuses, do they?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think, one, you point out a very good thing. The Iraqi people for the first time are realizing that their future is going to be in their hands. You're seeing the political process at work in Iraq right now. There are town hall meetings going on. There is a town hall meeting that will be coming up soon in Baghdad, where Iraqis are discussing democratic institutions, and discussing freedom and democracy and how they go forward on pursuing a free and democratic and prosperous future.

And you're seeing -- there were a number of meetings that took place across the country in December, hundreds of meetings among small groups and big groups of Iraqis, where they were discussing this issue. As they assume more and more responsibility, they are beginning to realize the wonders of democracy. Democracy is emerging. The political process is working. And that's what you're seeing right now.

Q So, Scott, when you say that you're engaged in an active, ongoing dialogue, and that you're discussing ways forward within the framework, can we expect that there will be some kind of tweaking of the process, that those caucuses might be made somehow more open? Or that there might be -- say, the leader might be directly elected within each district? Is that the kind of thing we should look for?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, look, the November 15th agreement was a framework. And we've said from the get-go that we are willing to discuss refinements or improvements within the framework of the November 15th agreement. So that's something we have previously said.

Q That agreement also calls for the transfer of sovereignty by a date certain, June 30th.

MR. McCLELLAN: That's right.

Q And are you willing to move that, because it may be that elections can be had if you had another month there. It may be that you can get an election system off the ground if you had more time.

MR. McCLELLAN: I think that the November 15th agreement, which laid out the fundamental law, also laid out an orderly transition to sovereignty. And it laid out a way to move forward quickly, in an orderly way, to direct elections by the Iraqi people. We are working to assist the Iraqis as they move forward to a free and democratic future. And we will continue to assist them along the way. But we believe that the November 15th agreement is the way forward. And the Iraqi people are the -- the Iraqis are the ones who worked on that agreement and came to that agreement.

And I would point out to you that President Pachachi reaffirmed his strong support for the November 15th agreement just yesterday.

Q Are you concerned -- is one of the concerns here that direct elections dominated by the Shia before there is a constitution in place would not guarantee minority rights for Sunnis and Kurds?

MR. McCLELLAN: Look, I think that, one, it's the Iraqi people that will make the decisions about their future. It's the Iraqi people who will eventually be the ones who elect, in a direct way, their leaders, and a representative government for their future. But there was a lot of discussion about the way forward with the Governing Council and with other Iraqis. And the decision was made that it was important to move forward in a quick and orderly way to transfer sovereignty to the Iraqi people by the end of June. And that was something that the Iraqis were very involved in and very much driving. And so we are working with them to continue that dialogue and within that framework.

Q Then just one more. Is Secretary Powell going to be in on the meeting here at the White House?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'll try to keep you posted on who's there. I know that, certainly later in the day that he has some meetings over at the State Department, as well, including with Secretary Powell.

Q But if Secretary Rumsfeld is here, why wouldn't Secretary Powell be here?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'll keep you posted. I didn't look at the list of who's attending. That's why I said I'll keep you posted on who is here. Obviously, you all will see -- you tend to know who comes and goes from this building.

Q Scott, what are the administration's thoughts, though, on how the November 15th transition plan can be refined, can be improved, but still stay, again, within that existing framework?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's part of the discussion as we work with the Iraqi people. That is ongoing. That's why I said we're engaged in an active, ongoing dialogue within the framework of the November 15th agreement. So those are discussions that are ongoing at this point. And I --

Q What are the options?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think that we'll let those discussions take place between the Coalition Provisional Authority and Iraqis. That's the best way, to let those discussions move forward.

Q But isn't it part of the discussions today here at the White House, Bremer and the President?

MR. McCLELLAN: He is the presidential envoy to Iraq and he comes back from time to time. This is one of the times when he's coming back and they'll have a discussion about a range of issues on Iraq. And, certainly, transferring sovereignty is a high priority right now.

Q What role does the United States see the United Nations playing in all of this? And, specifically, can you distinguish between what role you see for the U.N., in terms of election monitoring or helping the caucus process and a longer range role for the U.N.?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I would remind you that the United Nations was playing a role inside Iraq before the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad came under a terrorist attack. So the U.N. was there helping to assist and play an important role. We've always said that we believe the United Nations has a vital role to play in helping the Iraqi people move toward a free and democratic future.

And, in fact, I would remind you that there are three Security Council resolutions passed calling on the United Nations to play a vital role -- most recently, Resolution 1511. We believe very strongly that the United Nations has a lot of special expertise that they can provide when it comes to elections and when it comes to the drafting of a constitution. We are hopeful that they will be able to return soon. They were playing an important role, we want them to continue to play an important role. So we'll work with the United Nations to address any concerns that they might have regarding security. Those are issues that we can work with them on. And we look forward to continuing to have discussions with the United Nations.

Q As Baker has gone around the world talking about debt restructuring, has he also tried to reach out to countries like Germany and France and Russia about getting them on board to help out, to break the logjam that we're seeing develop now, as far as the political process in Iraq?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I would remind you that Secretary Baker is the President's personal envoy on debt restructuring. We are pleased that a number of countries, some of which you have mentioned, have agreed to substantially reduce Iraq's debt. And that's important. Obviously, we're still discussing the specifics of how -- of what substantial means for those countries. And Secretary Baker continues to do his work. I think we'll have some updates on his schedule soon about some additional countries he will be talking to. But his focus is on the restructuring or reducing of Iraq's debt. And a number of countries have committed to substantially reduce their debt burden. That's where his focus is. Other people, obviously, are leading efforts in other areas, some of which you mentioned.

Q So he is not discussing the broader context in which the debt issue --

MR. McCLELLAN: His mission, his focus is on reducing the debt burden, that's what his focus is. Whether or not other issues come up in those meetings, because countries raise them, you can direct those questions to those countries.

Q France's defense minister said today that France wants to help with Iraq's recovery, including training the Iraqi army and police. And France has also supported the U.S. plan for restructuring, forgiving Iraqi debt. What more do they need to do? Why wouldn't this qualify them for those prime Iraqi reconstruction contracts?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, as I've said, there was the first round of reconstruction contracts, and we've already discussed that matter. There will be a second round of contracts that will be available. We said earlier this week, after the President met with Prime Minister Martin of Canada, that in recognition of the important contribution that Canada made at the Madrid Donors Conference that they would be eligible for the prime contracts in the second round. They were already eligible for the sub-contracts in the first round. We've also said, from the very beginning, when the memorandum went out from the Department of Defense, that circumstances can change for other countries. You saw in the case of Canada that circumstances changed. And I've said that other nations may well be eligible, as well.

Q Scott, does the President want to be able to set some sort of more concrete, I guess, timetable for the transition in Iraq during the State of the Union speech, when obviously millions and millions of Americans will be watching? And by the way, while we're on that subject, can you give us some highlights of the speech, since we won't see you?

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me talk about the new initiatives in this -- no, put your pens down. (Laughter.) So what was your first part of your question?

Q Does he want to have more -- to lay out a specific timetable for transition in the State of the Union speech?

MR. McCLELLAN: There is a specific timetable that was laid out in the November 15th agreement that the Iraqis worked on, that was agreed to between the CPA and between the Governing Council.

Q To hear it from him, that extra -- because, as I say, millions of Americans will be watching and perhaps --

MR. McCLELLAN: I think you can expect that he will talk about Iraq and talk about the Middle East. But the November 15th agreement already outlines a timetable for transferring sovereignty, and then for the Iraqi people to conduct elections. It gives them a date certain by which they should hold direct elections.

In terms of the State of the Union, there are big issues facing the American people. And this is a time to unite the American people around big priorities. It is a time that requires leadership that brings the country together around great goals and great challenges. And I think you will hear the President talk about that in his remarks. Our nation has faced a number of great challenges in the last few years. And we are continuing to confront those challenges. We are acting decisively to address them. The President looks forward to reporting to Congress and the American people on the state of the union next Tuesday. He will certainly have -- you will hear directly from him in more detail.

But I would just remind you that we have been working to meet our priorities, both at home and abroad, but there is much that remains to be done to continue to make America more secure, to continue to make America more prosperous, and to continue to make America more hopeful. And it will be in that tone that the President will address the Congress and the American people.

Q Different subject, sorry, but the Taiwan government has announced the two topics in the upcoming referendum. Do you think -- do you know about it, and do you think it might or might not affect the stability in the Taiwan Straight?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I would reiterate that the President is a strong supporter of Taiwan's democracy and a one China policy as a means to preserve peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, as you just mentioned. And you'll recall that on December the 9th, the President said that the United States does not support Taiwan independence and it would oppose unilateral steps by either Beijing or Taipei to change the status quo. We certainly welcome any statements that confirm Taiwan's commitment to the status quo now and in the years ahead.

Q Scott, a follow-up --

MR. McCLELLAN: Did you have a follow-up on it? I'm sorry.

Q Yes. You said, also in the years ahead -- so that means the status quo should continue not just for this year and whoever is becoming the new President of Taiwan?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I think our position remains what it has been for quite some time now. And I think I would leave it where I said it.

Did you have something, Terry?

Q Well, does that mean that these -- the topics of these referenda do not cross the line that the President drew, which was that he doesn't -- he disapproves of anything --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I would keep in mind that as a matter of principle that we are not opposed to referenda, but nor will we endorse any specific referendum. We understand, however, that there would be no relationship between the outcome of the proposed referendum and Taiwan's commitment to the status quo .

Q Can we come back to the State of the Union? Before we leave that, can you describe how the President has been preparing for it? And also, can we have a little bit of the speech?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the outline of the State of the Union went to the President shortly before the holidays. And the President, as I informed you all previously, worked on it some over the holidays. He has continued to work on it. There are some drafts that just went to -- well, drafts just went to him recently and are being staffed within the White House. The President today will have his first speech preparation -- or had his speech preparation, I should say, it's over by now. And he will continue to work on it over the weekend, I'm sure, at Camp David, and do some more speech preparation on Monday and Tuesday.

Q Just one other question on that speech, on the timing. There have been some grumbling Democrats that, you know, hey, it's right after the Iowa Caucuses. Is the President hoping to steal the limelight back from them?

MR. McCLELLAN: Look, as I just said, there are some important priorities that are facing the American people. And this is a time to bring the country together to address those priorities. Congress is the one that extends the invitation on the State of the Union. We are invited to go to the Capitol and give this presentation.

Q Scott, is the President going to use the State of the Union as another opportunity to defend and explain his immigration policy, which hasn't really been very popular in many sections of his own party?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think it was a very strong proposal that enjoys strong support among the American people. The President outlined his immigration proposal and the temporary worker initiative because he believes it's the right policy for America for the reasons he stated. We are a welcoming society, we are a compassionate society, and this policy reflects our compassionate side. The policy also addresses an important economic need, and that is, when there are American workers that cannot be found to fill jobs, that we need to fill those jobs to help our economy move forward. And there are people that are willing to fill those jobs. And so it recognizes that important economic need. So I think you can expect he will continue to talk about the importance of Congress moving forward on this new temporary worker program.

Q Is there any prior consultation between Taipei and Washington on the wording of the two questions of referendum?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not aware of any such, but you might want to address that question to the State Department, see what it --

Q After you see the questions, do you still consider this referendum a unilateral action to change to status quo?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think I've addressed this. So I'll leave it where I did.

Sarah, go ahead.

Q Thank you. Scott, will the United States accept a religious government in Iraq comparable to that in Iran? At least one expert, Professor Jeffrey Record, at the Army War College, says, if not, the U.S. will have to accept some form of autocratic government. Is he correct?

MR. McCLELLAN: One, it's going to be up to the Iraqi people to determine their future. And, two, I would point you back to the November 15th agreement. It spells out the principles or the elements of the fundamental law. And one of those is a bill of rights to include freedom of speech and freedom of religion, a statement of equal rights for all Iraqis, and the guarantees of due process. So that is the framework that we are working on as we move forward, but it's going to be up to the Iraqi people to make the decisions about their future representation in government.

Q Scott, the report is coming out, or it's already out today, in which various Democratic legislators are saying that in spite of the creation of the Homeland Security Department, in spite of having spent $10 billion on airport security, the country is not adequately prepared to face a terrorist attack.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I would point out to you that our country is much safer today than it was on September the 11th. We have taken a number of significant steps to protect our homeland and to protect the American people. I would remind you that the most important step that we are taking is to take the fight to the enemy by waging the war on terrorism. The best way to prevent an attack from happening in the first place is to bring those who seek to do us harm to justice before they can carry out an attack here in our homeland.

So we've made significant progress in making America's -- making Americans safer from terrorism. Certainly there have been significant amounts of resources provided to first responders and dedicated to port security, as well. We've been working to strengthen border security, including thousands of new border patrol agents. We've been working to improve aviation security through professional screeners, air marshals, reinforced cockpit doors, and certainly, then, the newly established U.S. Visit Program is another way to -- for us to be able to know who is coming into this country, when they're coming in, and when they're leaving.

So I think that it's important to look at the significant accomplishments this administration has made to make our country safer. We are safer than we were on September the 11th. We are doing everything we can to protect the American people and prevent an attack from happening in the first place.

But there is much that remains to be done. That is why we undertook the largest reorganization of government in some 50 years, by creating the Department of Homeland Security, so that all these agencies were brought together under one umbrella, and they made their number one focus on protecting the American people and preventing a terrorist attack from happening in the first place. They are working hard, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We are acting to prevent attacks from happening in the first place. I think the American people recognize that, by some of the actions we took over the holiday season when the alert level was raised at a higher level.

And so I think it's important to look at it in that context. And we want to continue to work closely with Congress to build upon the progress we have made to protect the American people, and that's exactly what we will do.

One more?

Q Yes, I have one more. A different subject, but it's close to what Mark Smith was saying. The President doesn't speak much about the Democratic primaries, in fact, he doesn't speak at all on it. As an internal matter of the --

MR. McCLELLAN: Is he going to speak about the --

Q No, no. My question is, is he following, he must be interested --

MR. McCLELLAN: I think I addressed that when Mark asked it, that Congress is the one who extends the invitation.

Q No, no, no. Is the President following mostly what's happening in Iowa?

MR. McCLELLAN: Look, the President has got plenty to focus on here when it comes to the American people's business. You're going to hear him talk about many of those important challenges that we're facing on Tuesday night. I think you will see that the President has plenty to focus on when it comes to the American people's business. We'll let the Democrats worry about their own primary. There will be plenty of time to talk about differences and discuss the election later on. But the President is going to remain focused on the American people's business.

Q I just wanted to get this perfectly clear in my mind. You're saying that --

MR. McCLELLAN: That's assuming I can get it perfectly clear in my mind. (Laughter.)

Q The November 15th agreement is a framework?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes.

Q That agreement calls for caucuses to elect the provisional government. You're saying that within this framework, there's still room for tweaking in some way so that there might be some sort of direct elections or some kind of an election component within that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think we've -- well, no, no. I think that -- you just correctly pointed out what the framework calls for in terms of the transitional authority that would lead to an eventual permanent representative government of the Iraqi people. And that framework is what we're working within. We said -- we've always said that we want to work with the Iraqis and assist them to -- if there are ways to refine or improve the November 15th agreement, but that it should be within that existing framework.

Q The Ayatollah Sistani, obviously, has a great deal of influence on a very large part of the country. And his demand for direct elections, rather than a caucus, could be a major wrench in the whole works, couldn't it?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think you're seeing the political process at work. You're seeing democracy emerging. As I pointed out, there are meetings going on all across Iraq. There are town hall meetings now taking place. There's another town hall meeting coming up in Baghdad next week or the week after that, that I expect there will be a large gathering there. This is democracy taking root in Iraq. This is the political process in action. And that's why there is an active, ongoing dialogue with the Iraqi people between the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iraqi people. And we will continue to assist them and work with them along the way as they begin to assume full responsibility for their future.

Q In addition to immigration concerns, some conservative groups are also raising concerns about the spending bill next week before Congress. They say it's simply too costly. Does this White House think that there is too much pork --

MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, the President has always put forward a responsible budget that meets our priorities and holds the line on spending elsewhere in the budget. And the President does not believe that government spending should be growing faster than the average family's income. And that's why this budget, when it comes to the discretionary spending, holds the line on spending to the 4 percent level and meets that principle. And we are pleased that Congress has worked with us to get to that point.

But you pointed out something -- the Senate needs to act on the omnibus bill. They need to -- when they get back, they need to act quickly and pass the omnibus bill next week. There are a number of important priorities that are funded in this legislation, from education to health care to the President's emergency relief plan for AIDS in Africa and two Caribbean nations. There are a number of important priorities that are awaiting action by the Senate. We urge the Senate, when they return, to move quickly to get that legislation passed.

Q So there's no pork, aside from those priority items?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you can look at the actual legislation in terms of what -- I'll let you define those matters. But this is -- the President believes -- and Congress, obviously, decides some of the specifics within the budget -- but the President believes that it was important to meet that overall principle of funding our highest priorities, winning the war on terrorism, protecting the homeland, and strengthening our economy, and then holding the line on spending elsewhere in the budget. And this budget does do that. And the budget the President is going to be proposing in a few weeks for the '04-'05 will also be a responsible budget that adheres to principles.

Q Scott, if I could, just one follow-up on Jacobo's question about the President's interest in the Democratic primaries and process. Are you saying that he's not at all curious about who his future opponent will be?

MR. McCLELLAN: Obviously, we all see a Democratic primary going on. That's in the news. But the President has got plenty to focus on here in Washington, D.C. -- that's the American people's business, and that's the things we are trying to continue to accomplish here on their behalf.

Q Are there any more details about the yellow cake that was found in the Netherlands that's believed to have come from Iraq, or the convoy of 30 C4-laden warheads that came into Iraq from Iran?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't have any update beyond what you've seen reported by other countries that would have that information.

Q Scott, back on the State of the Union. Yesterday what happened in Atlanta to President Bush, is the President looking at possibly putting some kind of issue of race relations in the State of the Union, especially as many African Americans feel that they're off the radar screen here at the White House?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President has pursued policies that benefit all Americans. I would remind you that this President has pursued a compassionate conservative agenda from the very first day of this administration. And go back and look at the initiatives that we've already acted on, as well as ones we're continuing to work to act on.

The President passed the most sweeping -- worked with Congress in a bipartisan way to pass the most sweeping education reforms in a long time, that these reforms will help improve our public schools and help ensure that every child can learn and succeed, because the President believes we ought to set high expectations, because he believes that every child can succeed. He believes in the hopes of every single child. And so those are the most sweeping reforms in education in a long time. And we also dedicated historic levels of funding to that proposal.

The President has often talked about how we must address the soft bigotry of low expectations, and that is what his education reforms do, because reading is the key to success. And receiving a quality, first-rate public education is the key to a brighter future for all Americans. So it starts there.

But he's also pursued proposals to close the minority homeownership gap and expand homeownership for more Americans. He's worked to implement a faith-based and community initiative to reach out to charitable organizations that have a proven record of saving and changing lives. He talked about that yesterday. He's worked to address the rising cost of health care. That's something that he will continue to talk about. In fact, I expect he will talk about it in the State of the Union, as well, that we need to work to make sure that all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care. And certainly health care costs are something that Congress needs to address, and we want to work with them to address those issues. The President has outlined a number of proposals there.

But the agenda that the President is pursuing will help improve the quality of life for all Americans. It has, in many ways, and he will continue to pursue policies that -- I would be remiss if I didn't mention the economy. The President acted decisively to get us out of a recession and get the economy growing and strong. And there are additional steps that we can take to create an even more robust environment for job creation. And that's why the President is calling on Congress to make the tax cuts permanent, why he's calling on Congress to ask -- to address the rest and act on the rest of his six-point plan, as well.

Q I take it, with your answer, the President is not going to deal with race relations in the State of the Union -- but wait a minute --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, look, April, one, I think I said at the beginning that there are a number of important challenges facing this nation, and we need leadership that brings this country together to confront and address those challenges, and a leadership that unites us around big goals and big challenges.

Q But, Scott, some civil rights leaders were very upset yesterday -- you saw by the mob yesterday that greeted the President. They are concerned that civil rights is not on the table here at the White House. Jesse Jackson said it was an insult to lay a wreath at Dr. King's grave. Is the White House trying to embrace the African American party -- the African American community -- excuse me -- we know that they are going out for the Hispanic community, but will there be an effort, as the Republicans are trying to get 25 to 40 percent of the black vote in 2004?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President believes in reaching out to people from all walks of life --

Q (Laughter.)

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q Nothing.

MR. McCLELLAN: We've got some questions going on here. These are good questions.

Q Thank you.

MR. McCLELLAN: The President believes in reaching out to people from all walks of life. That is his record. He has a proven record of reaching out to people from all walks of life and people across the political spectrum, and bringing people together to get things done. The President focuses on results. Look at the results that we are achieving on behalf of the American people. And that includes the African American community.

Certainly, you brought up his visit yesterday. I was there with the President, and the President very much appreciated the very warm welcome he received from Mrs. King, other members of the King family and the King Center. He was honored to go and participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the tomb of Dr. King, someone who dedicated his life to fighting for freedom, opportunity and equal justice for all. He was honored to be there on behalf of the nation, to pay tribute to him on his 75th birthday.

Q Thank you.

MR. McCLELLAN: Thank you.

END 12:44 P.M. EST