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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 13, 2004
Press Briefing by Scott McClellan
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
12:30 P.M. EST
MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon. I've got a couple of announcements to make at the beginning here. First off, Treasury Secretary Snow, Commerce Secretary Evans and Labor Secretary Chao and Small Business Administrator Barreto will be traveling to Washington and Oregon on Tuesday, February 17th, and Wednesday, February 18th, to discuss the state of the economy and the recently enacted Jobs and Growth Plan, as well as other efforts by the President to create jobs, strengthen the economic recovery and increase workers' standard of living.
During the two days that these members of the President's economic team will participate in town hall-style meetings, roundtables and tours in the two states, and will meet with families, workers, manufacturers, local business leaders, economic officials, small business owners and individual investors. The President, during the State of the Union, announced new initiatives to strengthen our economy even more, further reform education and job training, and address the rising cost of health care. These officials will focus on these new initiatives and, specifically, what we can do to make sure people are prepared for the new jobs of the 21st century.
The second announcement I have is regarding an update to the President's schedule. The President will welcome President Ben Ali of Tunisia to the White House on February 18th. The President looks forward to discussing with President Ben Ali a wide range of bilateral and regional issues, including our common efforts to combat terrorism in the region and the world, and our shared goal to see the spread of freedom and prosperity throughout the Middle East.
And with that, I will be glad to take your questions. Steve.
Q Scott, does the U.S. support Israel's new proposal for withdrawing from parts of Gaza and the West Bank?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, Steve, a final settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians must be achieved through negotiations. And neither side should impose final conditions on the other. But there are -- but some Israeli moves to disengage by removing settlements could reduce friction between Israelis and Palestinians, improve Palestinian freedom of movement and address some of Israel's responsibilities in moving ahead toward the vision described by the President in his June 24, 2002 speech.
Q So this is an encouraging sign? And are you sending a team --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I would say that some moves could -- is the way I would describe it. Again, though, any final settlement needs to be achieved through negotiations between the parties.
Q And just one more thing, is there a team from the United States going there next week to discuss this with the Prime Minister?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we have remained in an ongoing dialogue with parties in the region, including the government of Israel. There are -- as you're aware, a variety of people have been to the region and have visited with officials in the government of Israel, including officials such as Assistant Secretary Burns, Ambassador Wolf, people like Dr. Rice and Steve Hadley, and Elliott Abrams. There's nothing to announce at this time, but we remain in close contact with all parties, including the government of Israel.
Q Can I follow that, Scott?
MR. McCLELLAN: Sure.
Q Just from your statement, I'm not clear, because it is a unilateral move; it's not a negotiated move that Sharon is contemplating. And so how does -- I don't see how the first part of the statement squares with the second.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, the government of Israel is right now working on plans. And I'm not going to speculate about what those plans are. As part of the ongoing discussions in the region, we will, of course, be discussing that subject further with the government of Israel in the coming weeks, and the coming months. But, again, I would reemphasize that a final settlement needs to happen through negotiations.
Q So we're not going to know whether you agree or disagree with this plan until after the Sharon meeting?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, what I said was that some moves to disengage could help reduce friction between the parties. But, again, this is a plan that they are still working on right now. And I don't want to speculate about their plans. We'll continue to have a discussion with the government of Israel.
Q Does the President approve of building a wall around illegally annexed Jerusalem, taking over 600,000 more acres of Palestinian land, demolishing the homes? I mean, talk about -- what's our position on that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, our position is --
Q We have heard no word of condemnation, there's daily slaughter of the Palestinians.
MR. McCLELLAN: Those are issues, actually, that we have discussed with the government of Israel. The President has made our views very well known and our concerns known about the fence and the importance of the Palestinians being able to move about more freely. And so those views have been well known, and there are some additional steps that the government of Israel has talked about in that area.
Q But should they be taking so much more Palestinian land as they leave?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, we remain in contact with all parties in the region. I think one thing that's important to emphasize is the need for the Palestinians to act, to crack down on terrorism and dismantle terrorist organizations.
Q Terrorism you equate with trying to defend your own land?
MR. McCLELLAN: That is the foundation for moving forward in the region.
Q Can I ask you a question, Scott? I just want to be absolutely clear on something here. The records that you released earlier this week on the President's Guard service state that he did not perform any Guard service in the third quarter of 1972. That's correct?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you have the records in front of you, and they state the dates on which he was paid. And you are paid for the days on which you serve.
Q So they state that between April 16th of 1972 and October 28th of 1972 he did no Guard duty.
MR. McCLELLAN: We've been through these issues, John, and we've provided you with the documents that show his service.
Q And do you believe that's correct, that he did no duty between April 16th and October 28th?
MR. McCLELLAN: John, I don't know why we need to go through this again. This issue we've been through earlier this week.
Q Well, the reason I bring up the question is that John Calhoun, who claims he was the person in charge of making sure that President Bush reported for duty at the 187th Tactical Recon Group, says that he saw the President several times on the base between May and October of 1972, yet there is no record of him being there, in terms of what you released earlier this week.
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't speak for him. You would have to talk to Mr. Calhoun. I do not know him.
Q We did talk to Mr. Calhoun, and Mr. Calhoun said that he saw the President several times between May and October of 1972.
MR. McCLELLAN: And like I've said --
Q So I was just wondering, can you explain that discrepancy?
MR. McCLELLAN: And like I've said, the President doesn't recall the specific dates on which he performed his duties. He does remember serving both in Alabama and in Texas. During that entire period, he was a member of the Texas Air National Guard.
Q But the records that you released do recall quite specifically the days that the President served on. There's no record of his being there --
MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, these are National Guard records that document the President did serve during that time period. And that was an issue that was raised earlier this week.
Q Right. But the records clearly recall that he did no Guard duty between April 16th and October 28th. Yet, Mr. Calhoun says he saw him on the base at the 187th between May and October of '72. So there's a discrepancy here. I'm wondering if you can explain it?
MR. McCLELLAN: John, again, we've provided you with the records and the facts are in the records that we have.
Q A good point. Could the records be incomplete?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q Could the records be incomplete?
MR. McCLELLAN: Direct that question to the National Guard. These are the personnel records that we've received.
Q Scott, have you been through the entire personnel file now? And have you released everything you're going to release?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, like I said, that if there is additional information that comes to our attention that is relevant to the issue, we will certainly provide you with that information. That's a commitment that we've made.
Q But have you seen the entire file? That sounds like a reasonable question.
MR. McCLELLAN: Have I seen the entire file? I don't know the answer to that question at this point, because there is a possibility -- we have expected to receive additional documents from the National Guard. I think we just very recently received some additional documents, but I'm not sure if any of those documents are new. We're going to take a look at those. We'll take a look at those, and if there's new information relevant to the issue, then we will certainly provide you with that information.
Q Saturday, during the taping of the Tim Russert program, "Meet the Press," the President said something at the end -- many thought it was a very confident statement, at the least -- that he would not lose this election. That was Saturday. At 12:35 p.m. today, Friday, does he still feel that same way in the midst of all of this controversy, polls showing that he's at his lowest rating ever?
MR. McCLELLAN: Absolutely. You know, one, that's not something that he pays great attention to. What he's focused on is the decisions that we are making on behalf of the American people. And the decisions that the President is making are the right decisions for the American people. They are decisions that are making our country more secure and more prosperous and they are decisions that are leading to a safer and better world.
Q But a follow up. Apparently, he does feel that this is a problem, the AWOL story, the alleged AWOL story, and some of the other --
MR. McCLELLAN: Which has now been documented to be false.
Q Well, there are still some discrepancies. But apparently he's fighting these stories, so that's saying that the President realizes there is a problem for this campaign, correct?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry? That there is --
Q I made my point clear.
MR. McCLELLAN: That may be your interpretation. This President is confident that the decisions that we are making are the right policies for the American people, and he is confident that the American people are supportive of the decisions that we are making.
Q Putting out paper, you're giving out paper --
MR. McCLELLAN: Look, April --
Q -- you're directing us to The Boston Globe article --
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me finish the question there that you asked. There is going to be plenty of time to talk about the campaign. Right now this President is going to remain focused on the great challenges that we are working to meet. And we are meeting them in a number of different ways, but there is more to do.
But this President is acting decisively to make America more secure, to make America more prosperous, to make America a more compassionate place. And he's acting to make the world a safer and better place.
Q Well, then why would you give us this information, then, if he's not worried about it?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q Why would you give us this information, direct us to The Boston Globe story today? Why would you give us --
MR. McCLELLAN: Why would you ask those questions?
Q A follow up on that. You mentioned the campaign. The Bush-Cheney campaign has released its first campaign ad -- albeit on the Internet. Does this mean now that the President's reelection campaign has officially begun? And does this also mean that he believes John Kerry will be his opponent?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think you need to direct those questions to the campaign. The White House and the President remain focused on the American people's priorities.
Q Scott, did the President authorize the campaign attack --
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, you can direct campaign questions to the campaign.
Q Scott, I'm asking about the President.
MR. McCLELLAN: If they're related to the campaign, you can direct those questions to the campaign. I'm sure that they'll be glad to get you those answers.
Q Do you think the campaign would have done that without authorization from the President?
MR. McCLELLAN: Mark, again, I said you can direct those questions to the campaign.
Q Aren't you all one? Aren't you --
Q I just wondered if you have any update on the issue of the constitutional amendment regarding homosexual marriages -- especially in view of the latest events in San Francisco and Massachusetts?
MR. McCLELLAN: It's where I left it the other day. The President remains strongly committed to protecting and defending the sanctity of marriage.
Q And you said the President is watching closely the events in Massachusetts. Does that mean he won't make any decisions or take any moves until that plays out? Because that could be quite a while.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, if there is anything further to update you on, we will do so. But we continue to look at events closely and continue to look at this issue very closely.
Q Scott, in connection with the road show by Snow and Evans and so forth, to the Northwest next week, the consumer sentiment index came out today. It showed quite a big drop. It fell to 93.1, from 103 in December. Now the President spoke yesterday in Pennsylvania, talking about the job retraining program and so forth. Is there anything else he has in mind to get jobs moving, beyond the six-point plan?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, for Congress to act on the six-point plan and to act on the initiatives he outlined in his State of the Union address -- on health care, on jobs and education -- or on job training and education, the ones that I mentioned at the beginning.
Q But is he concerned that beyond -- anything beyond --
MR. McCLELLAN: One of the most important things the Congress can do to help strengthen our economy even more is to make the tax cuts permanent. That's a very important part of strengthening our economy even more and creating a more robust environment for job growth. The last thing we need to do is increase taxes. And if those expire, that's what would happen. It would be increasing taxes. We need to provide certainty to the American people, so that they can plan for their futures. And the President trusts in people, and that's why he believes that those decisions about spending and investing in the future are best made by people, not the government.
Q Scott, in an interview with the Associated Press, David Kay suggested that it's time for the President to acknowledge the errors about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction -- "say we've learned from it and move ahead." Does the President agree with that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I would remind you what the President has said. The President was asked about this issue on Sunday. He said, we expected to find them. We believed that he had weapons of mass destruction. We know he had weapons of mass destruction because he had used them. He had used them on his own people. He had used them on a neighboring country. And the President made it very clear on Sunday that we will find out what happened to them. There are different theories that exist --
Q You said that they had them --
MR. McCLELLAN: But we will found out what happened to them. I would also refer you back to what the President said in South Carolina just over a week ago. He said the facts are becoming clear. There is more that we are learning. And the Iraq Survey Group obviously continues to do their work to find the truth. And we will compare the intelligence that we had before the war with what we have learned on the ground since the war.
And while we have not yet found the stockpiles, the Iraq Survey Group has uncovered what the regime in Iraq was up to. The President talked directly to that last week.
Q Does the President acknowledge there were errors?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President believes it's important to compare what we are learning on the ground, and what we learn on the ground with what we knew before the war. Obviously, we are learning more. The facts are becoming clearer. The President made that very clear in his remarks.
Q Is that a "no"?
MR. McCLELLAN: And we want the Iraq Survey Group to continue their work, to find the truth, and to find out what happened to the weapons of mass destruction. And then we can look at those issues. That's the President's view.
Q So it's not yet time to acknowledge that the President's --
MR. McCLELLAN: The President has said that we will find out the truth through the Iraq Survey Group and we will compare that information. That's his view.
Q Secretary General Kofi Annan's representative in Iraq appears to be moving toward support for holding elections before June 30th, rather than the caucus proposal from the United States. Do you have a problem with that?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not sure that's what exactly he expressed. He, from my understanding of what I heard and saw -- well, first of all, let me back up. We appreciate the U.N. team going into Iraq at the request of the Iraqi Governing Council and assessing the feasibility of elections. We have always said that the United Nations has a vital role to play, and they certainly have a lot of expertise that they can offer in the area of elections and the drafting of a constitution. And they were playing a vital role. We help they will in the future, as well.
But Mr. Brahimi, the United Nations envoy, expressed support for holding elections as soon as possible, and he expressed support for transferring sovereignty as soon as possible. And we agree that elections should be held as soon as possible. And we have worked in agreement with Iraqi leaders to transfer sovereignty by June 30th.
And what he talked about earlier today was that -- Mr. Brahimi, that is -- is that he expressed the need for the infrastructure to be in place to hold elections. And he discussed how the transfer of sovereignty is a complex issue. That is why the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iraqi Governing Council work closely with -- work closely together to find a way forward to transferring sovereignty to a transitional government.
Now the U.N. will make recommendations, and we look forward to hearing those recommendations. But I'm not sure that I interpreted his remarks the same way you did.
Q Scott, the new ABC News/Washington Post poll indicates that a growing number of Americans believe that the information about Iraq was exaggerated at the time the President went into Iraq. And his ratings on the qualities of trust and honesty that -- trustworthiness that were very high for the 2000 election have eroded. Why do you think Americans might be questioning or not as strongly convinced of -- on either of those factors now?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, I think that, again, we are focused on the priorities here. But the numbers that you are seeing, I think, are not out of line with the historical pattern. You have to keep in mind that there has been a lot of dramatic twists and turns in the Democratic primary and that's where all the attention has been focused. That's been the only game in town. There's going to be plenty of time to talk about the election down the road.
But make no mistake, I think that the American people know that this is a President who does what he says he is going to do; this is a President who fights for what he believes in. And nowhere is it more important to do what you say you are going to do than in the foreign policy arena. Our word is credible because we do what we say we are going to do. That's why we are making such great progress in places like Iran and Libya, and even North Korea, in working to confront the threats that we face.
Q Do you think any of the coverage of both the questions of whether there are weapons of mass destruction, the questions of his National Guard service -- do any of those factor in? Or do you believe the whole thing is just a historical decline?
MR. McCLELLAN: We don't get concerned about the day-to-day numbers. I think, again, you have to put those in the context of history. And, historically, I think the numbers reflect trends that happen over the course of presidential elections. But, look, this is -- we're focused on the American people's priorities right now. There will be plenty of time to talk about the election.
Q Can I follow Wendell's question? Mr. Fawzi, who is a spokesman for Mr. Brahimi, said it's not a question of delaying the hand-over, it's finding a new timetable. Are you willing to consider a new timetable if the U.N. comes back and recommends it?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, if you -- what I said a minute ago was that the Iraqi Governing Council and the Coalition Provisional Authority agreed to a June 30th timetable for transferring sovereignty. We believe it's important to move forward in a timely and orderly fashion to transfer sovereignty to the Iraqi people. That's an important element in building a free and peaceful Iraq for the Iraqi people. And so we are working toward the June 30th time line. We remain committed to meeting that time line.
Q On the weapons of mass destruction issue. With the revelation that A.Q. Khan was conducting a rather extensive trading business in nuclear secrets, technology, et cetera, we know that North Korea has interest in things like that. Libya had a program they are now going to abandon. There are questions about Iran having an illegal centrifuge; Syria, et cetera. Is it reasonable or even prudent to think now, because of David Kay's statements, that there are absolutely no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? That the guy who was totally devoted to weapons of mass destruction now has none? Is it reasonable or logical to even consider that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, we know he had them, we know he had used them. Those are facts. We know he had the intent and capability. We know he was a gathering threat. And that's been spelled out by Dr. Kay most recently.
What we have learned since the war only reconfirms that he was a grave and gathering threat, even before the war.
Q Okay. Let me go one step further. The weapons of mass destruction concept is, to most people, I think they're envisioning some of the Cold War-era weaponry, missiles with warheads and things of that nature. But weapons of mass destruction, doesn't that include very small, very discrete pieces of equipment and vials of biological agents? Isn't that included in this weapons of mass destruction?
MR. McCLELLAN: We believed he had them. We expected to find them. The President made very clear that the Iraq Survey Group continues their work. We'll find out the truth. They will find out what happened to the weapons of mass destruction.
Q But you're not abandoning the idea that there still could be those weapons there?
MR. McCLELLAN: Jeff, I think there are a lot of different theories out there about what happened to the weapons of mass destruction.
Q Can I ask you a process question, since you directed the question about the Internet ad to the campaign. Since the President is both an incumbent President, and obviously a candidate, how is he dealing on his schedule with campaign-related discussions that he has to be involved in? Does he deal with them in the evening? Are there certain days of the week when he deals with it? Can you give us an idea of how he tries to parcel out his time?
MR. McCLELLAN: He keeps updated on what's going on. But --
Q But how does he do it?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I keep you updated on the President's schedule on a daily basis, so --
Q But how does he reserve time in his schedule to be able to talk --
MR. McCLELLAN: What he is focused on right now is the American people's business. He stays -- I mean, he begins his day with the usual briefings. That's the first thing he does. And then he goes from there. And he just had a meeting earlier today with governors who just came back from Iraq, to update him on the progress they're seeing on the ground in Iraq.
Q If he needs to talk to Mr. Mehlman or Mr. Reynolds or whoever he does, how does he do that? Does he do it during the evening or does he do it during the work day?
MR. McCLELLAN: He keeps updated on what's going on. We recognize it's an election year, but he remains focused on the American people's priorities.
Q -- the residence? Which is he more --
MR. McCLELLAN: I will be glad to visit with you more about this. But I think I gave you a general description.
Q You didn't give me any description, actually. (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think I did give you a general description. Obviously, he stays in contact --
Q Why are you reluctant to talk about it? It's not that hard. You know what his schedule --
MR. McCLELLAN: Because I'm the White House, and the White House is focusing on the American people's business. If you have campaign questions, you can direct those questions to the campaign and they can give you more information about that issue.
Q So for now going forward, any question that relates to the President's activity or interrelationship with his campaign, you will not speak about that?
MR. McCLELLAN: I am speaking from the White House and what we are doing here in terms of acting on the President's policy decisions. I'm here to talk about the President's agenda and what we are doing to make America safer and more prosperous and more compassionate and what we are doing to make the world a better and safer place. That's what my role is. If you have questions about the campaign, the campaign will be glad to talk to you about those questions.
Q I'm just asking about his time --
MR. McCLELLAN: But it was related to the campaign, so they will be glad to talk to you about those questions.
Q You tell us when he's raising money for the campaign. Why couldn't you tell her that? I mean, you tell us when he's raising money. Why can't you tell us what she's asked?
MR. McCLELLAN: I just told you that I keep you updated on a daily basis on his schedule. And if you have questions related to the campaign, they are the best place to direct those questions.
Q Scott, the Air Force is investigating as many as 25 rapes at an air base in Texas. And the Pentagon is investigating reported sexual abuse in Kuwait and Iraq. As Commander-in-Chief, is the President concerned about the apparent rise in sexual abuse in the military?
MR. McCLELLAN: Absolutely. It is a very serious issue and it needs to be fully investigated and pursued to the fullest extent of the law. We have no tolerance for any such activity.
Q Scott, as a follow-up, though, on a question about the campaign, the new campaign finance reform law requires a candidate to appear on camera saying he approves this message, as we've seen with the Democrats. I'm wondering, has the President done any of those kinds of TV shoots yet? And has he participated in any commercials at all, otherwise?
MR. McCLELLAN: That's a nice try, too. That is a campaign question and the campaign will be glad to answer -- they will be glad to answer those questions for you.
Q -- to do here.
MR. McCLELLAN: I want to talk about the President's policies and the decisions that he is making here at the White House for the American people. If you all want to talk about campaign, that's fine. But we are focused here on the President's policies and decisions that he is making for the American people.
Q Scott, how is the President's mood now? He's had a very rough week, he's under a lot of pressure. How is he holding up?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President is doing great. He feels very good about the direction we're moving, in terms of economic security, in terms of winning the war on terrorism. The President believes we are moving in the right direction on a number of important fronts for the American people, and that's where his focus remains.
Q He's not angry or discouraged? (Laughter.)
Q When you're on the road, do you talk about the campaign?
MR. McCLELLAN: This is an election year that we're in, Helen. We fully recognize that.
Q But now you're White House? You talk when you're on the road, but not in the White House?
MR. McCLELLAN: Obviously, there is a campaign set up. There is a campaign set up to address those matters.
Q On Sunday, the trip to Florida, the Daytona 500. We knew the President was a baseball fan; didn't realize he was such a NASCAR fan. (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, then you must not have been following him too closely the last few years. Certainly, he went to the Texas Motor Speedway back in, I think it was 1999, if I recall, when he was still Governor of
Texas. He was Grand Marshall for the Pepsi 400 in -- that was at Daytona in July of 2000.
I think the President looks forward to attending the Great American Race this Sunday in Daytona. He appreciates the invitation and the opportunity to participate in the start of the race. NASCAR is one of the fastest growing sports in America. There are some 75 million Americans who are now considered NASCAR fans. And I think it's also a sport that is followed around the world. It's an international sport now. But it's a great sport that is a great and growing sport in America. And the President looks forward to starting off the race.
He's the President of the United States, Alexis, and I think that he -- you know, he was honored to go and throw out the first pitch at game three of the World Series back in 2001. He was honored to participate in other important events. He was honored to participate in an interview with CBS prior to the Super Bowl just a couple of weeks ago.
And as the President of the United States, he really -- he looks forward to attending this big event in NASCAR. And he views it as a way to really honor some true champions, both for what they do on the track and what they do off the track, because NASCAR drivers are people that put a lot back into the communities that they're involved in. They do a lot of work to help those who suffer from disasters like hurricanes. They provide a lot of support for people such as that. They've provided a lot of support for children and families in need. And so the President is honored to be going to the Daytona 500 and kicking off the Great American Race.
Q Is he a NASCAR Dad? (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: I think he's a proud dad.
Q I'd like to come back to the records one more time, if I could. Forgive me if I'm beating a horse that you would rather see depart this world. (Laughter.) But the President, in his --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think most of the American people believe that this issue has kind of run its course.
Q The President, in his interview on Sunday, was asked the first question about possible release of records, the first question about possible release. He was asked, when there were questions about Senator John McCain's record, Wesley Clark's record, they authorized the release of their entire file. The President was asked, would he do that? And he replied, "Yeah." So why is the President reneging on that pledge?
MR. McCLELLAN: John, do you want to continue on and go through the rest of that questioning?
Q Because that was the first question to which he answered in the affirmative -- don't try to parse it out.
MR. McCLELLAN: John, here's the question, quote from Tim Russert. "But you will allow pay stubs, tax records" --
Q Let's go with the first question. You're parsing.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think you are, because the issue that Tim Russert raised was whether or not he had served while he was in Alabama.
Q Read the first question, Scott.
MR. McCLELLAN: "But you will allow pay stubs, tax records, anything to show that you were serving during that period." "Yes. If we still have them." We have provided you with that information, and we will continue to.
Q Read the first question.
MR. McCLELLAN: I just -- you read the first question. I read this question. It was the --
Q Right. It was the very first question --
MR. McCLELLAN: The context of this discussion --
Q The very first question, when he said, "entire record," the President said, "Yeah."
MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, John, let's look at the context of the discussion. The context of the discussion was clear about whether or not he had served while he was in Alabama. It was very clear.
Q The first question was about entire --
MR. McCLELLAN: We can agree to disagree on this issue, but I think it was very --
Q We're going to end up on the Daily Show again with this one.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- very clear about the context of the question.
Q Scott, the President has talked a lot in the past, especially lately, about his -- the need he has to restrain federal spending. The Senate just passed a highway bill that is quite a bit more than he proposed. Is the President committed to vetoing that bill to keep spending under control, or is it going to be something he's going to negotiate?
MR. McCLELLAN: If that legislation comes to his desk, the President will veto it. The President has made it very clear that we need to fund our important priorities, like winning the war on terrorism, protecting the homeland, and strengthening our economy. And then we need to hold the line on spending elsewhere in the budget. This President always puts forward responsible budgets that fund our priorities and hold the line on spending elsewhere in the budget. It's important to show spending restraint. And we called on Congress -- we continue to call on Congress to show spending restraint. This issue of the highway funding is an important first test. It is still in the early stages, but we will continue to call on Congress to show spending restraint. And the way that they can show that, right up front, is to hold the line on spending in the highway funding legislation.
Now it's very important to point out that the proposal the President put forward for $256 billion over the next six years is a 21 percent increase over the previous six years. It's a responsible funding proposal for our important highway and transportation needs. But we need to continue to work to cut the deficit in half over the next five years. And it's important that we show spending restraint.
And so the President, if that legislation that passed the Senate comes to his desk, he will veto it.
Q Thank you.
MR. McCLELLAN: Thanks. Have a good weekend.
END 1:02 P.M. EST
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