For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 5, 2004
Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Charlotte, North Carolina
9:05 A.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: Good morning. Let me begin with the President's day. He had his usual briefings. The Freedom Corps greeter upon arrival is Laura Spencer, who for 14 years now has volunteered as part of the Adult Basic Literacy Education Program at Central Piedmont Community College, where she has been teaching some basic reading skills to a gentleman living in her community who was forced to drop out of school at a young age and never learned how to read, and is now in his 60s and fully literate, thanks to her volunteer efforts.
Upon our -- and then upon arrival at Central Piedmont Community College, the President will meet briefly with some business and community leaders, including some small business owners and the President of the community college. This will be a handful of individuals.
And then he will make remarks on job training and the economy, and you have the fact sheet from yesterday, where he will specifically focus today on some of the reforms he is proposing to the Workforce Investment Act, and how we are making sure that that money is focusing on results and getting to the workers who need the money for -- who need the resources for training and preparing for the challenges of our changing economy.
And then upon -- before departing, the President will also meet briefly with a family of one of our troops that was killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Q He lives there, or something?
MR. McCLELLAN: The family is from that area, yes.
Q Do you know the name?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll see what I can get you later on that. I want to check with the family on that information.
Q Before or after?
MR. McCLELLAN: It will be after his remarks, before departing the community college. Then the President makes remarks in Charlotte at a Bush-Cheney 2004 luncheon. Then we depart for St. Louis.
And in St. Louis, the President looks forward to throwing out the opening day pitch for this game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Milwaukee Brewers. Following the opening pitch, the President will also participate in a live interview with Fox Sports Midwest. And then he will also participate in an interview with Mike Shannon, who is the co-anchor for Cardinals baseball on KMOX. And then we go to Crawford for the rest of the week.
Q You said Fox Sports Net?
MR. McCLELLAN: Midwest.
Q Mike Shannon is who?
MR. McCLELLAN: He's the announcer and the co-anchor for St. Louis Cardinals baseball, KMOX.
Q Is that radio or TV?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's radio, the second one is radio. The first one, obviously, is TV.
Q Prime Minister Sharon is saying that Yasser Arafat could be a target now. Does the United States agree with that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Our views are very well known to Prime Minister Sharon. We have made it clear that sending him into exile or otherwise dealing with him is not part of the solution to the situation in the Middle East. So we've made our views very clear to Prime Minister Sharon, and he's very well aware of what our view is.
Q Does the President have any reaction to the events in Iraq over the weekend with the Shiite uprisings and also Senator Lugar --
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know -- first of all, I don't know that I would describe it the way you did. I think that what you're talking about is one individual who is seeking to derail democracy and freedom for the Iraqi people. This is one individual who is seeking to undermine the transition process, to --
Q But he commands about 10,000 people.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- to sovereignty. And I think Ambassador Bremer spoke earlier today -- well, this is an individual, I would remind you, that has pledged solidarity with terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah. And Ambassador Bremer spoke earlier today, and made some comments, too, about them. And I would encourage you to look at his remarks, as well.
Q But he wasn't the only individual running in the streets and firing at U.S. troops. I mean, how do you explain his appeal?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q How do you explain this individual's appeal to ordinary Iraqis?
MR. McCLELLAN: This is an individual who is seeking to derail democracy and freedom for the Iraqi people. That's -- its an individual who has pledged solidarity with terrorist organizations. And Ambassador Bremer talked about this earlier today, when he said, this is a group to quote Ambassador Bremer, "has basically placed itself outside the legal authorities, the coalition and Iraqi officials," and went on to say, "He is attempting to establish his authority in the place of the legitimate authority. We will not tolerate this; we will reassert the law and order which the Iraqi people expect." The coalition and our troops -- the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Coalition forces will --
Q Was President Bush -- I'm sorry, was President Bush consulted in regard to the military response in the city of Fallujah itself?
MR. McCLELLAN: Was he consulted? He is regularly briefed on the situation, and he did speak with General Abizaid late last week.
Q But back to Sadr. Given your comments that he's operating outside the law, or Ambassador Bremer's comments, should he be arrested then, like other people who operate outside the law?
MR. McCLELLAN: That's why I just said that the coalition will address the matter. And Ambassador Bremer has talked about that. He said that in his remarks, that we will reassert the law and order which the Iraqi people expect. Democracy and freedom is on its way for the Iraqi people, and it will not be derailed by anyone.
Q Does this cause you to perhaps ponder the possibility of delaying the transfer of sovereignty on June 30th?
MR. McCLELLAN: We are continuing to work -- the coalition is continuing to work closely with Iraqi leaders and the Iraqi people to meet the June 30th timetable for transferring sovereignty to the Iraqi people.
Q It's possible -- it could slide?
MR. McCLELLAN: This was an agreed to timetable between the Governing Council and the coalition.
Q Is it possible it could slide, or you might need a little more time?
MR. McCLELLAN: We are continuing to move forward to meet that timetable, working -- and we're working very closely with Iraqi leaders to make that happen. It's important that we continue to move forward on that timetable.
Q But, Scott, if it were more beneficial for the security situation on the ground for the sovereignty transfer not to take place on June 30th, would you all be amenable to that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, I think that moving forward on democracy and sovereignty and the economy in Iraq helps bring about greater security for the Iraqi people. We are certainly making important progress in those areas. There are certainly security issues that still need to be addressed, and we're working very closely with the Iraqi people who are playing a large role in that security process, as well, to address that situation.
Q On jobs training real quick, is this basically -- what he's announcing today -- an effort to influence the conference that will happen between the House and the Senate on the bill that's already passed both houses?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, it's -- what he's doing is outlining a -- what is a bold proposal to make sure that our workers have the skills they need to fill the high-paying, high-growth jobs of the 21st century. The economy is moving in the right direction. Certainly Friday's jobs numbers were powerful confirmation that our economy is growing stronger. But there is more to do. That's why the President outlined his six-point plan to create as robust an environment for job creation as possible. But we also need to recognize that we are in a changing economy where productivity is high. And that's a good thing.
But at the same time, there are a lot of high-growth sectors in this economy where we need to make sure workers have the skills to fill those jobs.
Q -- he wants to work through is this bill that's passed both houses and it's awaiting a confirmation?
MR. McCLELLAN: We talked about that on the background conference call yesterday. They kind of addressed some of those issues about where that is. It's in the conference now. And the President, of course, has already proposed the $250 million in additional resources for community colleges to help lead to the doubling of the number of workers trained through the federal worker -- work force training programs.
Q Late Friday, on his trip back from Brussels, Colin Powell said that he now believes that the intelligence he quoted to the U.N. in making his case for war with regards to the mobile biological weapons labs, appears now to be false. Do you have any --
MR. McCLELLAN: I want to address that. I'll come to that in one second. But I also want to add one thing on job training and employment programs. There have been some allegations out there about cuts in some of those programs overall. I just want to point out that under this administration, job training and employment programs -- funding for job training and employment programs have increased from approximately $20.4 billion when we took office to approximately to $23 billion, or an increase of approximately $2.5 billion. So I just wanted to point that out.
Now in terms of Secretary Powell's remarks, I think Director Tenet in some of his recent remarks talked about -- said something to the effect that there was still no consensus within the intelligence community regarding those mobile laboratories. But regardless of those comments, I think -- the President appointed an independent commission to look at all -- to look at all these issues as part of a comprehensive look at intelligence related to weapons of mass -- the spread of weapons of mass destruction and nations with weapons of mass destruction programs. So we can compare what we are learning on the ground now with what we knew prior to going into Iraq.
Q If I can have one follow up to that. Does it concern the President that the primary source for the intelligence on the mobile biological weapons labs was a guy that U.S. intelligence never every interviewed?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, all these issues will be looked at as part of a broad review by the independent commission that the President appointed. It's important that we -- but I remind you, too, that the Iraq Survey Group work -- the work of the Iraq Survey Group is ongoing. Charles Duelfer gave an update to Congress last week, a status report. But again, he reaffirmed what David Kay previously said, that Iraq was in serious violation of its -- of the Security Council resolutions. But it's important that we look at what we learn on the ground and compare that with what we believed prior to going into Iraq. And that's exactly what the independent commission will do.
Q Scott, last week we had the Sunnis, the Baathists, and so forth shooting as us. This week, it's the Shiites. Is there a danger of open rebellion against U.S. forces?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think, again, you're -- this is one individual and some of his followers that we're talking about. I don't think you can broadly categorize it to all people within a particular community within Iraq. But, I'm sorry, what was your question?
Q Is there a danger of open rebellion against U.S. forces there?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, there are some areas in Iraq that remain dangerous. In terms of Fallujah, as I said last week, I have great confidence that coalition forces will bring those individuals to justice who are responsible for those despicable, cowardly attacks. And we will continue to work closely with the Iraqi people who are the largest contributor to their own security now to bring about greater stability in Iraq as we move forward on transferring sovereignty back to the Iraqi people, and as we move forward on establishing a democratic future for the Iraqi people. This is about helping the Iraqi people realize a brighter future.
And I think with that, we're about to land.
Q Scott, can I ask a quick question? Beyond Tuesday, what does the President plan to do?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q Beyond Tuesday, is he just going to have some down time at the ranch?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll keep you posted. He's got a couple of interviews he's doing with -- and I'll keep you posted on that.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, it's not -- it's not foreign press. But I'll keep you posted on that on Wednesday and Thursday. And I'll talk to him about some of the other activities he might plan on doing while he's there. But I'll be around.
Q Does he have any interviews with Newsweek magazine?
Q Just the L.A. Times.
MR. McCLELLAN: We're not self-promoting here now, are we? L.A. Times, Newsweek, ABC, Fox --
MR. McCLELLAN: AP, Reuters, Bloomberg. All right, thanks everybody.
END 9:18 A.M. EDT