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 Home > News & Policies > May 2004

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 21, 2004

Press Gaggle by Trent Duffy
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Baton Rouge, Louisiana

9:48 A.M. EDT

MR. DUFFY: Let me run through the President's schedule. He had his normal intelligence briefings, as he typically does. We are obviously on our way to Louisiana State University , where at 10:00 a.m. he will provide commencement remarks. Scott gave you the context of those remarks yesterday. I don't think I have anything to add at this point.

Then after that, we will depart to New Orleans , and go to a Victory 2004 reception in Metairie . I hope I'm pronouncing that correctly. Then he'll later go to the ranch, where he looks forward to spending a weekend at the ranch with his family and celebrating the daughters' graduations. He's very excited about that. It's a fun time in a family.

I think I'll just go ahead -- do you want to do the week ahead now?

Q Sure.

Q What's the radio address about?

MR. DUFFY: The radio address will be about the job creation in America and how the economy continues to move forward and how, as far as we've come, we still have more work to do. And you'll get that later. Steve Friedman, on Ask the White House, later today, the Director of the National Economic Council, will discuss those economic numbers that are coming out later today on the actual state by state job creation figures. That's at 3:00 p.m. today on Ask the White House.

Let's go to the week ahead. And I know there's a lot of interest in Monday's speech, and I'll come back to that at the end, if that's all right with you. On Monday, May 24th, we'll go to make remarks in the Rose Garden to the Detroit Shock, the WNBA champions, I believe. Then later, Monday evening, he will travel to Carlisle , Pennsylvania , to make remarks on Iraq and the war on terror at the United States Army War College . That's at 8:00 p.m. on Monday evening.

Q Evening?

MR. DUFFY: I said we'll return to that subject. On Tuesday, May 25th, he will travel to Youngstown , Ohio , where he will participate in a conversation on health care and community health care centers.

On Wednesday, May 26th, he will be meeting with the President of Gabon, and I have an announcement on that.

I guess this would be an appropriate time to make that announcement. President Bush will meet with President Omar Bongo Ondimba of the Gabonese Republic at the White House on May 26th, 2004 . President Bush looks forward to discussing a variety of issues with President Bongo, including cooperation on the global war on terrorism, regional stability, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and the promotion of democracy. The two leaders also will discuss continued U.S. support for the protection of the Congo Basin 's rich bio-diversity and national heritage. That's a statement by the Press Secretary.

Let's go back to the week ahead. That's Wednesday. On Thursday, May 27th, the President will be meeting with the President of El Salvador, which has been previously announced, in the Oval Office. He will then travel to Nashville , Tennessee , where he will participate in a conversation on health care information technology. After that conversation, he will attend a Victory 2004 reception in Nashville and return to the White House.

On Friday, May 28th, again, he will be meeting with the Prime Minister of Denmark in the Oval Office, which has previously been announced. On Saturday, May 29th, again, previously been announced, he will make remarks at the National World War II Memorial dedication on the National Mall in Washington . On Sunday, May 30th, he will welcome the Rolling Thunder leadership to the White House. And on Memorial Day, Monday, May 31st --

Q What's Rolling Thunder leadership?

MR. DUFFY: Rolling Thunder is the annual motorcycle parade from, I believe it's Arlington National Cemetery , but I can get you more details on that. And on Monday, May 31st, he will participate in a wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery , and he will make remarks at the Arlington National Cemetery Memorial Day Commemoration.

That is a lengthy week ahead -- the extended week ahead, if you will. I think that's the announcements that I have.

Q Is this being announced in D.C. now, as well?

Q Are you the only source for this?

MR. DUFFY: I am the only source for this.

Q Trent , this weekend, are they doing a party in Austin or at the ranch for the graduation ?

MR. DUFFY: I believe the receptions are in Austin and in New Haven , private receptions.

Q You mentioned that the President -- you know, it's exciting that his daughters are graduating. Has he expressed any other emotions? I think some parents find it sort of -- you're excited and you're proud, but the kids are all kind of grown up now, kind of sense?

MR. DUFFY: I honestly haven't talked with him about it. I think you may see some of his -- some of that come through today when he gives his commencement speech, because today's speech is on life lessons, and he'll be delivering that as the father of two graduates. So he'll be speaking with authority.

Q Was the speech on Monday, at the war college, intended to be at night, or is that a change?

MR. DUFFY: No, it was intended to be an evening speech. Let me give you a few things on the speech. We are approaching a pivotal phase, as we approach the June 30th transfer of sovereignty in Iraq . And the President looks forward, on Monday evening, to discussing with the American people and with a global audience a clear strategy on how we need to move forward.

He'll be discussing a number of fronts, which involve the security front, the sovereignty front, humanitarian and civil infrastructure, and the international and diplomatic fronts, as well, all in the context of keeping Iraq on a path of progress to democracy. He realizes, as well as most Americans do, that we have difficult challenges ahead, that the enemies and foes of freedom in Iraq will do anything to stop the progress, but that our resolve is firm, and that the transfer of sovereignty will take place on June 30th. And the President looks forward to discussing all these things with the American people. It is an important speech.

Q Is the White House asking for the networks to carry the speech?

MR. DUFFY: No, the White House is not requesting official time.

Q How specific will he be about who gets -- who takes control, who is in charge after June 30th?

MR. DUFFY: That's a decision that Ambassador Brahimi is going to be making, in consultation with the Coalition Provisional Authority. This is more about the strategy on those fronts that I outlined.

Q When will the President find out who the names are that Brahimi has picked?

MR. DUFFY: I do not know the answer to that question. I will --

Q Has he seen the names thus far? Is he knowledgeable about what is going to be announced?

MR. DUFFY: I think, as Scott mentioned yesterday, Ambassador Brahimi is working in consultation with the Coalition Provisional Authority, and we're in connection with that through the Coalition Provisional Authority. That's all I have on that.

Q Why 8:00 p.m. ?

MR. DUFFY: Well, it's an evening speech because it's an important speech, and we hope that Americans will take the opportunity to listen, because it's an important part of transferring the sovereignty or entering a pivotal phase, as I mentioned earlier. It's an important speech; it's an important time.

Q Is he going to be making any specific announcements during the speech about the transfer?

MR. DUFFY: Well, you'll all see the speech on Monday -- you'll hear the speech, rather, and view it, hopefully.

Q Why not ask for the networks to carry it if it's so important, and have any of the networks said that they were planning to?

MR. DUFFY: I haven't -- I don't have that information.

Q But do you know why the White House didn't ask, if it's so important, the networks to --

MR. DUFFY: I honestly -- I honestly don't know.

Q -- get many more millions of people.

MR. DUFFY: I honestly don't know.

Q Was it -- was it a matter of discussion?

MR. DUFFY: I honestly don't know that. I can check.

Q But, Trent , the decision hasn't been made not to ask for time?

MR. DUFFY: The decision has been made.

Q Okay.

MR. DUFFY: That's correct. We are not asking for official time.

Q But you said that he was going to be speaking to a world audience or that --

MR. DUFFY: Oh, I assume that the global audience tunes into cable television, as well, and I assume that people cover it. I wasn't trying to indicate anything, just that -- that -- when the President of the United States -- when the President of the United States speaks, it's not only the United States that listens.

Q What's the President's view at this point of Chalabi , given the raid yesterday and everything that's going on?

MR. DUFFY: I think, as the Coalition Provisional Authority said, that Mr. Chalabi was a man who worked with the coalition and the Iraqi Governing Council on the objective in Iraq, and it's up to the Iraqi people, from here on out, as we transition to a democratic Iraq, on who they decide their leaders will be.

Q Does he have any concerns that millions of dollars of U.S. taxpayer money went to Mr. Chalabi's organization, which now seems to have not -- there's, you know, serious allegations against how they've conducted themselves, and possibly done illegal activities, including kidnaping and misappropriation of funds and all that sort of stuff like that.

MR. DUFFY: And I believe that's with the -- an investigation, but I'll have to check on that, on the details of what that is.

Q But he's not bothered by the fact that all this money went to Chalabi and the INC?

MR. DUFFY: Listen, Mr. Chalabi was part of the Iraqi Governing Council, as we moved towards a free, peaceful, and democratic Iraq . And it will be up to the Iraqis to decide who they want their leaders to be.

Q Are there any regrets, at this point, in the way the United States empowered him, though, over the years with his monthly stipends and his friendships with people in the administration?

Q And put him on the Governing Council.

MR. DUFFY: It will be up to the Iraqi people to decide who they want their leaders to be in the future. The best part about all this is that the Saddam Hussein regime is gone, and that we are continuing to stay on the path of progress towards democracy in Iraq, and that the interim government will take over sovereignty on June 30th, as we go towards those January 5th elections -- January elections -- scratch that "5th." I don't have an exact date.

Q Is the President concerned about, that, despite his trip to the Hill yesterday, they failed to pass a budget ?

MR. DUFFY: The President continues to hope that the Congress will pass a budget that meets his national priorities of winning the war on terror, protecting the homeland, and continuing growing our economy with strong job creation. His top priority on the economy is making those tax relief permanent so that families, married couples with children, and lower-income workers who benefit from the 10-percent bracket don't face a tax increase. So he wants Congress to pass the budget. He issued a statement yesterday urging the Senate to follow the House's lead in passing that budget. And he wants to continue working towards that.

Q One follow up on his question about concerns about the money over the years going to Chalabi . Did I understand you to say, that's what the investigation is all about? I'll go back and listen, but --

MR. DUFFY: I need to check on that. I believe there are some outside entities looking into that, and I don't know the exact relation. So that's why I will check and come back.

Q Can you confirm that Brahimi was the one who said, he wouldn't work -- he wouldn't work to creating a new government if Chalabi were part of the Iraqi Governing Council, and that would sort of spell the end for Chalabi?

MR. DUFFY: I don't have anything on that.

Q Then what about this -- is Monday's speech, as it's been billed in some of these -- the beginning of a series of speeches the President will be giving on the transfer of sovereignty ?

MR. DUFFY: Well, the President has been speaking regularly about why we must prevail in Iraq , because it is the central front in the war on terror. So I wouldn't call it the beginning, per se, but just a -- sort of a recognition of this pivotal phase that we are entering. And the President will be continuing to speak out about the transition in Iraq .

Q On a regular weekly basis?

MR. DUFFY: I don't -- I wouldn't put a specific calibration on it, but the President will be speaking regularly about our challenges in Iraq , why we must prevail.

Q But it's been reported that way. There'll be a series of -- over the next six weeks, between the World War II Memorial, between Normandy , the G8, the Air Force Academy .

MR. DUFFY: He's spoken about our objectives in Iraq several times this week, alone. So it'll be -- it'll continue to be --

Q But are we to take, Trent , that these are going to be larger speeches with bigger themes, and, perhaps, more full of news?

MR. DUFFY: I'll let you guys decide the news content.

Q Did the President sign off on the cessation of funding for the INC, or anybody else in the White House? Or is that a strictly Pentagon-based decision?

MR. DUFFY: Yes, I would refer you to the Pentagon on that.

Q So you don't know if he did, or --

MR. DUFFY: I would refer you to the Pentagon on that -- on the funding decisions -- those control of those funds.

Q And on allegations that Chalabi and his organization were also working for the Iranians at the same time, and leaking, perhaps, sensitive information to them? Is the President concerned that the support of Chalabi may have, in the end, undermined U.S. efforts in some way?

MR. DUFFY: Well, obviously, we're prohibited from commenting on intelligence matters, and that there's a commission that's in place that will investigate all these issues.

Q So the commission that's been set up to investigate intelligence errors, they also investigate Chalabi's dealings with Iran , if there are any?

MR. DUFFY: That would be a question you need to ask the commission. Their charge -- their charge is to look at all the pre-war intelligence, as well as the intelligence challenges that our country faces as we fight the global war on terror in the future.

Anything else? Thank you.

END 10:05 A.M. EDT