For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 11, 2004
Press Gaggle with Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route East Farmingdale, NY
12:29 P.M. EST
MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon. The President made remarks before we departed. You all will have a transcript of that, I'm sure, when we land. The President spoke with President Aznar earlier this morning and he spoke with the King of Spain a little bit later this morning.
The President, upon departure, talked about the vicious terrorist attack that occurred in Spain, and he talked about how the United States stands firmly with the people of Spain. We express our deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their lives. And our thoughts are with all the victims, as well. You will have the President's remarks when we land.
The President had his usual briefings this morning, as well. He made remarks, via satellite, to the National Society of Evangelicals convention. We'll get you the transcript on that. Upon arrival in East Farmingdale, the Freedom Corps greeter is Richard, or Rich, McKeon. He's been an active volunteer with Operation Hope, which helps empower low-income individuals through economic education. He's also been a Big Brother and mentor to a 14-year-old boy.
Following that, the President will tour USA Industries. USA Industries is a remanufacturer of alternators, starters, axles for automobiles and trucks. It's a company that manufactures products using recycled materials. That's what remanufacture means. USA Industries started in an 8,500 square foot building with eight employees, and over the past 18 years they've grown to over 140,000 square feet of manufacturing space and 221 employees.
Q How many employees?
MR. McCLELLAN: Two hundred twenty one. Following that, the President will participate in a conversation on the economy and job training, and he will talk about how the actions that we have taken have helped to provide important tax relief for small businesses and families. And he will talk about the importance of how we need to do more to create an even more robust environment for job creation and the importance of job training in this changing economy.
And then, following that, the President will attend the ground-breaking ceremony for the Nassau County 9/11 memorial. The President will attend the event and pay tribute to those who tragically lost their lives on September the 11th.
Just to give you a little bit of facts here. Nassau County lost the second-highest number of residents in the nation on September 11th, 281. The Nassau County memorial will include a listing of the victim's names and some remnants from the World Trade Center, including two pieces of steel beam. And it's going to cover one acre in Eisenhower Park. The President was invited by the county executive and Nassau County and the board of the Nassau County 9/11 Memorial Foundation to attend this event. They heard that he was going to be attending an event in the area, and extended an invitation to him in mid-February to come and participate in this event. And I think they worked to set the groundbreaking ceremony around the schedule for the President that day.
Q The other events had already been set up, you say, the fundraiser and the economic --
MR. McCLELLAN: They heard that the President was coming there for a reception. And that had been scheduled back in -- had probably been in the works before, but scheduled back in January. And in mid-February the county executive and the board of the Nassau County Memorial Foundation extended an invitation to the President to come and participate in this ceremony.
Q The county being the second highest loss; I assume the first is the city of New York?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think we can get you those facts. I was just giving you the facts that I have on Nassau County.
Q What is your participation going to be in --
MR. McCLELLAN: Hang on, let me finish. And then following that event this evening, the President will make remarks at a Bush-Cheney 2004 reception. I do want to mention one update to the schedule. On Monday, March 15th, the President will participate in a conversation on home ownership in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. And prior to that, he will tour Spring Avenue Development. And we'll get you more information that as we get closer to that time period.
Q What's happening with Raimondo?
Q You mentioned something about February, in terms of the time --
MR. McCLELLAN: The invitation was extended to the President in mid-February. I think February 17th is when we received the letter from the county executive and the board.
Q Scott, is the White House going to dump Raimondo?
MR. McCLELLAN: From what?
Q The perspective nomination?
MR. McCLELLAN: First of all, in terms of personnel announcements, you know I never speculate on those. We are moving forward to appoint the Assistant Secretary for -- at the Department of Commerce who would be responsible for the manufacturing and services sector.
Q Is his name Raimondo?
MR. McCLELLAN: There has been no final decision made at this point. If you'll recall, this was a position that was just established January 23rd of this year when the President signed into law the legislation creating that position at the Department of Commerce.
Q What is the status of Mr. Raimondo?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q What is the status of Mr. Raimondo?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I'm not going to speculate on personnel announcements just other than to say that in terms of the Assistant Secretary position at the Department of Commerce, we are moving forward quickly to fill that position.
Q When did you accept the invite to attend the ground breaking?
MR. McCLELLAN: In the latter part of February.
Q What is his participation going to be in the ground breaking ceremony since he's not giving any remarks? He's just going to -- just watch?
MR. McCLELLAN: He's attending -- yes, he's attending -- he's attending the ceremony.
Q No remarks?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, he will not be making remarks.
Q Scott, the President has come under criticism from families of the -- of 9/11 for not being as cooperative as he should with the commission and for using images in his ad. Is this going to be a little awkward for him to be there today?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think this is a day to pay tribute to those who tragically lost their lives on September 11th. He is the -- the President is there to pay tribute to those who lost their lives. September 11th is a day that this President never forgets. And that's what this day is about. It's about honoring and paying tribute to the victims of September the 11th. And this President believes one of the best ways to honor those who tragically lost their lives is to make sure we do everything in our power to prevent something like September 11th from ever happening again.
And I would like to just point out that there are many families that have expressed a different view from what you brought up a minute ago.
Q There will be protestors there, and so it's become part of the political debate right now. And does this make it, again, uncomfortable at this point in time to go there with the visit -- has this become hard?
MR. McCLELLAN: We're talking about the President of the United States paying tribute to those who lost their lives on September 11th. September 11th was a day that changed the world we live in. And September 11th is the reason we are a nation at war. And this President will never forget that day.
Q Who are these families who have expressed a different view? Have they written letters? Who are you talking about?
MR. McCLELLAN: There are a number of comments I've seen in the press. There's been a statement put out by a number of families.
Q Scott, one other question. Mr. Greenspan, this morning, before a House Education Committee, endorsed an extension of unemployment benefits. The administration has been opposed to that so far. Is the President --
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't -- I think that -- let me correct the premise of your question. Where has anyone ever said -- made such a statement?
Q Well, do you endorse what Mr. Greenspan said?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President is going to be talking about our economy today. The President is optimistic about the direction our economy is moving. And the best thing we can do for those who are looking for work and cannot find a job is to continue taking steps that create as robust an environment as possible for job creation. You heard the President talk yesterday about how we are an economy in transition. And you heard him talk about the trade adjustment assistance we have provided. You heard him talk about the job training resources that we have provided. And you heard him talk about the importance of acting on his 21st century initiative to make sure workers have the skills to fill the jobs of the 21st century.
Obviously, we've always said that -- in terms of the question that you asked -- that we will continue to work with Congress on those issues. But I think that the best way to help those who are out of work is to create an environment for robust job creation. So we've added jobs now for six straight months. The unemployment rate is below the average of the '70s, '80s, and '90s. We've seen a sharp decline in the unemployment rate. But this President recognizes there's more to do and that's why he's continuing to advocate the policies he talked about yesterday.
Q So what about Mr. Greenspan's comments on supporting extension of jobless benefits?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think I've expressed our view.
Q Scott, what does the President plan to do next week to mark the year anniversary of the start of the war?
MR. McCLELLAN: We'll keep you posted next week as we get closer to next week.
Q Why don't you keep us posted now?
MR. McCLELLAN: And again, the week ahead comes out tomorrow. And as we get closer to next week's events, we'll be glad to talk to you about them.
END 12:40 P.M. EST