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 Home > News & Policies > October 2004

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 20, 2004

Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Mason City, Iowa

10:09 A.M. EDT

MR. McCLELLAN: Good morning. The President had his usual briefings before we departed. We've got the remarks at the Iowa event and then we'll be doing a Focus on the Economy event in Minnesota and a Focus on Rural America in Wisconsin this afternoon. Those are both conversation events. We can get you some of the information on the participants there later, if you need it. I'm here for whatever questions you have.

Q You've probably seen Senator Kerry's remarks overnight, from his excerpts on Iraq. What's your reaction to him trying to separate Iraq from the war on terror?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I haven't seen everything he said, but we -- we welcome Senator Kerry re-engaging in the debate on the war on terrorism. Last week they said that they were going to focus on domestic issues for the remainder of the campaign. You know, there is a very clear choice when it comes to how to lead to win the war on terrorism. Senator Kerry -- the President has a comprehensive strategy to prevail in the war on terrorism. Senator Kerry has a pre-9/11 mindset that shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the war on terrorism. It's an approach based on responding to attacks. The President has a comprehensive strategy to prevent attacks from happening. That's why we're on the offensive, that's why we're working to advance freedom in the world. That's why we're working to build alliances as we continue to wage a global war on terrorism.

But I think you can expect the President will talk some about the war on terrorism in his remarks today in Iowa. And I think he will highlight some of the differences on this issue. There is a very clear choice on this highest of priorities for the American people.

Q I think the Senator today says, "War of Iraq is not part of the war on terrorism." I assume you disagree with that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, well -- and again, that shows that he -- that is another example of his fundamental misunderstanding of the war on terrorism. Zarqawi is in Iraq. He is someone who just the other day pledged his allegiance to Osama bin Laden. Zarqawi was in Iraq prior to the decision to go in and remove Saddam Hussein's regime from power. We are fighting Zarqawi and his network in Iraq so that we don't have to fight -- we are fighting them there in Iraq so that we don't have to fight them here at home. The way to win the war on terrorism is to stay on the offensive and to continue to advance freedom to defeat the ideology of hatred that leads -- that leads to terrorism.

Q There's a report in the New York Times today that not only did the President get bad intelligence about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but that U.S. troops got bad intelligence from the CIA about where they would face the fiercest battles, such as in Nasaryah, where we have suffered heavy casualties. Does the President believe that bad intelligence also cost lives in the war?

MR. McCLELLAN: What's important is that we succeed in Iraq. And the President has a strategy for success in Iraq, because Iraq is a central part of winning the war on terrorism. And when we succeed in Iraq, it will be a decisive blow to the terrorists and their ambitions. Any time you face a situation where you go to war, like we did in Iraq, it's important that you be able to adapt and adjust to circumstances on the ground. And that's what we have done in Iraq.

One of the important lessons of history is that it's important to look to your commanders on the ground and your military leaders to make determinations about what is needed to defeat the enemy. And that's what this President has done and will continue to do. And we will make sure that they -- we will make sure that they have all the resources they need to complete the mission.

Q What about the bad intelligence --

MR. McCLELLAN: There are things -- again, that's -- you're making intelligence judgments based on what you know at the time. But Iraq was a closed society.

Q The CIA has said that --

MR. McCLELLAN: When you go into a military conflict, you have to have some flexibility and be able to adjust and adapt to the circumstances. But what we are working to do is complete the mission. We are moving forward on -- in partnering with the interim government in Iraq and the Iraqi people to help them realize a free and peaceful future. And that's where the focus ought to be. Senator Kerry has a strategy that is based on protest and retreat, a strategy that will lead to defeat in Iraq. The President has a strategy for winning in Iraq.

Q What kind of message does it send -- I noticed in The Post today, the article about the doctors on the Hill urging members to get their flu shot when the President says he's not getting it, and urging healthy Americans not to, that our congressional and Senate leaders are being told to get it?

MR. McCLELLAN: The White House is following the CDC guidelines. It's my understanding that the entire executive branch is following the guidelines put out by the CDC. The President --

Q What are they?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that the vaccine should be going to those who are most vulnerable, our seniors and our children below a certain age. And that's what the President believes, and that's what Secretary Thompson has been talking about along with Julie Gerberding and Dr. Fauci. And so the President believes that that's where the focus should be and that's where those -- those who don't need it should not be getting the vaccine. We had a manufacturing problem.

Q What about --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you heard the President. He said, I -- he said he's not going to get one this year because he doesn't fall into the category.

Q That wasn't the question.

MR. McCLELLAN: Hang on. Hang on. I'm talking. He -- the President -- the CDC set out clear guidelines for who falls in the most vulnerable population that ought to be getting the vaccines that we have. And this administration took the lead to make sure that we were taking strong steps when it comes to flu preparedness. That's why we stockpiled antiviral medicines for those who do get sick. That's why we increased funding from less that $40 million to, in the '05 budget, more than $280 million for flu preparedness. And we had a manufacturing problem. And that's why the administration is prioritizing who should get those vaccines. And the President believes that those who don't need the vaccine should not be getting them.

Q Do we have enough vaccine?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, Secretary Thompson actually talked about that. He believes -- Secretary Thompson believes that we do. We're working to get additional vaccines, as well; in discussions with others to get additional vaccines. But we already have, I think it's 35 million vaccines that are available. I think there are more than 10 to 14, 15 million, I think, on the way. And he does believe there are enough there for those who are in that most vulnerable population.

Q Does the White House think members of Congress should get the flu vaccine, yes or no?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think I just stated the President's view --

Q Not on that question --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- that those who fall in the categories as defined by the CDC guidelines are the ones who ought to be getting the vaccines, and others who do not, should not be getting the vaccine.

Q So are you saying that the White House believes that healthy members of Congress should not get the flu vaccine? Can we report that?

MR. McCLELLAN: I stated our view. I think it's more broadly than that. I'm talking broadly about the entire population in America, in the President's view. And that's why he -- he stated that the other day.

Q So you won't respond to whether they should get it or not?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm talking about the entire population in America, that the vaccines ought to go to those that are -- that are defined in the CDC guidelines.

Q Should members of Congress live by the CDC guidelines?

MR. McCLELLAN: We think everybody should follow the CDC guidelines. And if you -- if you meet those guidelines, everybody -- that's everybody, Ron.

Q Why won't you say it includes Congress?

MR. McCLELLAN: I said, everybody, and so I did answer your question.

Q So we can -- we can write that --

MR. McCLELLAN: You can ask the question a million times. I said, everybody.

Q Can we report that the President wants members of Congress who are healthy not to have the flu vaccine?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President believes that those who the CDC defines as the most vulnerable ought to be the ones who get the vaccines, and those who don't fall in that criteria should not get the vaccines.

Q There was a -- this story in The Washington Post, I believe, about Condi Rice doing a whole series of speeches in key battleground states. Is it the White House --

MR. McCLELLAN: Grabbing for headlines now.

Q It's unprecedented for a National Security Advisor.

MR. McCLELLAN: Dr. Rice is the President's National Security Advisor. She has given speeches across the country when she's been invited to places. And I -- the American people are very focused on our highest national security priorities in support of -- that she continued to be accessible to the American people to talk about those priorities. That's what she's doing.

Q Very -- are you saying her speeches are unrelated to the campaign?

MR. McCLELLAN: She accepted are -- the speeches that she has given are engagements that she was invited to attend.

All right, thanks.

END 10:20 A.M. EDT