The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 11, 2004

Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Albuquerque, New Mexico

1:40 P.M. CDT

MR. McCLELLAN: All right. The President had his usual briefings this morning at the ranch. He went on a mountain bike ride this morning and he also -- the President also took Senator McCain on a tour of the ranch this morning.

Q Via bike, or no?

MR. McCLELLAN: No. Let's see. When we arrive in Albuquerque, the Freedom Corps greeter is Dr. Tom Hesch, H-e-s-c-h. For the past three years he has been active with Donated Dental Services of New Mexico. Through DDS he has donated over $18,000 in dental care to seniors, people with disabilities and low income individuals in the Albuquerque area.

Then the President will participate in an "Ask President Bush." Some of the focus in the remarks will include talking about the importance of supporting small business, and there will be -- I know a small business owner will be one of the participants in the conversation, as well. And then from there, the President -- well, before we leave there, the President will participate in a roundtable interview with a couple of reporters from -- well, three reporters from The Albuquerque Journal, Albuquerque Tribune and The Alamogorda Daily News.

Q Last one again?

MR. McCLELLAN: Alamogorda Daily News.

Q Can you spell that for us?

MR. McCLELLAN: Alamo, g-o-r-d-o. and then from there we go to Phoenix, where the Freedom Corps greeter upon arrival is Lucia Haas, who has volunteered with the Sunrise Senior Center since 2003. And then he has remarks at a Phoenix, Arizona rally. And then we'll overnight in Phoenix.

Q Kerry was beating you guys up on Yucca Mountain. What's the President's position on that?

Q What was the question?

Q Yucca Mountain.

MR. McCLELLAN: He's asking about Kerry. Well, the President made a decision based on science. The President has always said that the decision should be driven by science, not politics. And the decision he made was in the best interest of the nation. We are also making sure that the necessary safety measures will be put in place to protect the people of Nevada. And we also respect the right of Nevada to take its case to the courts and to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. And we will continue to work with all parties during this process.

And I point out that, you know, those comments come from someone who in the past has voted in a way that supported the efforts to look at Yucca Mountain as the site. So it's another example of a changing position.

Q Yesterday, the President, if I understood him right, said he would consider a national sales tax. How serious is he about that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you heard him. He said that it's something that ought to be explored seriously. The President has always believed in lower taxes and a simpler and fairer tax code. And so, generally speaking, he is open to ideas that move us in the direction of a simpler and fairer tax code. And one thing that -- one real important step we took to make the tax code simpler was to eliminate the death tax. We need to make that permanent. That is a great way to simplify the tax code; you eliminate 90 pages in the tax code right there.

We've also worked to streamline the tax code for personal savings accounts, like the individual retirement accounts and education savings accounts.

Q My question is, you say it's something that ought to be explored seriously. Is he exploring it seriously?

MR. McCLELLAN: He said it's something that ought to be explored seriously, so --

Q "Yes" or "no," is he exploring it seriously?

MR. McCLELLAN: You know what he's pursuing when it comes to making the tax code simpler and fairer, and what he's pursuing to keep taxes low. And if there's anything more to update you on then, obviously, we will. But what he said yesterday is where it stands, that it's something that ought to be seriously explored.

Q It's the kind of thing we're looking to for a second term agenda. Is he looking --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not going to -- well, one -- well, you heard what he said, he said that yesterday. So take his comments for what he said. But, no, there's nothing more to announce at this time.

Q Some of the Democrats are questioning Porter Goss's commitment to reform and also raising these partisan charges against him --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'd say "a few." I'd say "a few" Democrats. And the fact that a few Democrats are all of a sudden now claiming that Congressman Goss is partisan really lacks credibility. One, look at some of the -- what some of the other Democratic leaders said, which was -- I know Senator Graham and Senator Nelson talked about him, as well as some other Democrats, and they said that he was someone of high integrity, someone with unique experience, and someone who has always been viewed as nonpartisan. So I think it would be unfortunate if a few Democrats all of a sudden try to politicize the process. I noticed that there were no Democrats that stepped forward and said that they would block the nomination. Congressman Goss is someone who has unique experience and brings a reform-minded approach to the agency, which is needed during this critical time in our nation's history.

Q Are you anticipating a confirmation battle over this?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's why I said it would be unfortunate if all of a sudden now a few Democrats want to try to politicize this important position. We continue to urge the Senate to move forward quickly on his nomination and fill this vacancy. Congressman Goss is someone of tremendous experience and integrity, who has always brought a reform-minded approach to our intelligence. The President has great trust in Congressman Goss to do what is right and to make sure that the decision-makers are provided with the best possible intelligence.

Q The Kerry campaign said this morning that it intends to make more of an issue of the President's ties, and the Vice President's ties to Halliburton. They said that the latest story in The Wall Street Journal just highlights the problems that Halliburton has had in the past. Is the President concerned at all about some of the accounting --

MR. McCLELLAN: Look, that's the same old -- well, one, that's an issue that's being looked into by the Department of Defense. You need to direct those questions to the Department of Defense. There are oversight measures that are in place. And it's important that -- the Department of Defense is looking into these matters, and that's where it stands. So you ought to direct those questions to them. That's the same old political attacks that they've been waging for a long time, because you have someone who cannot stand on his own record and is trying to do anything to divert attention away from his record, which is out of the mainstream.

Q Are we going to be hearing more in the coming days on second term agenda?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, as I said yesterday, as the President has been talking about, and you've heard him continue, and as we've said, that leading up to the convention he will continue to talk more about his agenda going forward, that builds upon a strong record of results. And it is an agenda that is a hopeful one for America, and that will help make the world a safer and better place, and make America stronger.

Q Eclipse Aviation, is there any reason why we're going there? It's just a big hall? Is there any tie in?

MR. McCLELLAN: We'll get you all the background information about the business. I think this is a fairly new business. So we can get you some of the background information on the business, itself.

Q Why are there monitors from the OSCE coming to monitor our elections?

MR. McCLELLAN: The State Department already talked about that. They pretty much addressed it. There's a long-term partnership that has gone on there for quite some time. They talked about that the other day.

Q The President has a new ad -- the campaign has a new ad out, I think just starting today, talking about the war on terrorism. Why are we still going back to terrorism? Why don't we hear more about what the President intends to do on the domestic front? Are there ads on tap for that?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think you hear him talk about our highest priorities all the time. He's going to continue to talk about our nation's highest priorities, and those include winning the war on terrorism and strengthening our economy. But certainly the threats we face in the 21st century -- confronting those threats is one of this nation's highest priorities, and it's certainly one of the President's highest priorities. And September 11th was a defining moment in our history. And this President recognizes his most solemn obligation is to protect the American people. And he will continue to talk about the importance of confronting the threats we face, and acting on all fronts to eliminate those threats.

Q Thank you.

MR. McCLELLAN: Thanks.


1:51 P.M. CDT

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