For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 30, 2004
Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Ottawa, Canada
10:06 A.M. EST
MR. McCLELLAN: Good morning, everybody. The President had his usual briefings before we departed. Secretary Powell and Dr. Rice are both on board traveling with us to Canada. The President looks forward to visiting with Prime Minister Martin and speaking directly to the Canadian people tomorrow, as well.
I don't have anything other in particular, so I'm here for your --
Q What do you hope to achieve with this trip --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I talked about it a little bit yesterday in the briefing. This is an opportunity -- this is the President's first meeting with Prime Minister Martin in Canada, and this is an opportunity to strengthen a good relationship.
The President and Prime Minister Martin have developed a good working relationship and this will be an opportunity to focus on our shared strategic goals. I expect that they will be talking about how we can continue to work together in partnership to address our common security and our common prosperity. I expect that they will talk about continuing to work together in the war on terrorism and our efforts to strengthen our security in North America, particularly the border security aspects, so that we make sure that we're stopping terrorists from crossing borders, while making sure we're also facilitating the legitimate travel and flow of goods and services.
I expect they'll talk about expanding trade and economic opportunities. I expect they'll talk about our shared commitment to democracy and our ongoing efforts to strengthen democracy in our own hemisphere while working to advance democracy abroad. I think one of the things they'll talk about is the broader Middle East initiative. I expect the President will continue to thank our Canadian friends for their contributions in Afghanistan and Haiti. I expect that they'll talk about the importance of moving forward on a free and peaceful future in Iraq, as well, and what we can all do to support those efforts, but, really, I think focus on the security, prosperity and democracy.
Q Any progress on either the trade issues, beef or lumber?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, in terms of -- and they talked just a week ago, or just over a week ago in Santiago, about the BSE situation. There is a rule-making process that we believe is important to follow. That rule-making process is moving forward. The OMB is now moving that rule-making process forward; they have up to 90 days to address the matter and I think there might be -- the Department of Agriculture has already been working on this issue, and now the rule-making process goes to OMB. So there is that process that's moving forward at this point. And the President's priority, obviously, is to make sure that we're protecting the food supply for the American people. And so this is an issue that they have discussed and I imagine it will come up in their discussions again today.
Q Scott, Martin is not likely to be satisfied on either that or lumber, right? He's not -- he's thinking of re-stating their view?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I won't speak for him, but it's something we've talked about with him previously and continue to talk about. And I think one of the points that the President will make is that we have a rule-making process and that process is moving forward to address the issue.
Q Scott, the Canadian side was discussing that in this joint statement -- is there some specific timetable to make sure it is resolved by date X?
MR. McCLELLAN: There will be a -- I do expect there will be a joint communiqu issued, probably around the time of the press availability, hopefully before the press availability or just before the press availability, after the meetings have taken place.
Q It will be a --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, no, this will be a joint communiqu on, really, issues I talked about -- about how we can, you know, they're working together on our common security, common prosperity, working in partnership on those bigger goals. And he'll have some specifics within that. But, no, I wouldn't expect specifics on that issue.
Q Scott, there was a -- the recent poll in Canada that said about two-thirds of Canadians say their opinion of America has declined over the past four years under the Bush administration. Why do you think that is? Why do you think Canadians dislike President Bush, dislike the President's --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I don't necessarily agree. I mean, that was just one poll and I'm not sure that --
Q Well, there was something like --
MR. McCLELLAN: Like I said, we have a lot of shared challenges that we face, Canada and America, and the President will be talking directly to the Canadian people tomorrow in Halifax. And he'll be talking about some of those shared priorities that we face and the importance of working together to address those priorities, and how he's committed to continuing to strengthen our relations with Canada. There are a lot of ways that we can work together to address the challenges that we face in this 21st century, and this visit is an opportunity to build upon what is a good working relationship.
Q Should this trip be viewed as sort of a prelude or a model that would -- the President will undertake his European travels early next year -- where you go and you try to emphasize what common, sort of, interests we have, rather than the differences dividing --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that makes it sound like he hasn't previously, because when he -- I think if you go back to the very first trip he made to Europe, he talked about the importance of working together on common goals and shared priorities. So that's something the President has talked about for quite some time. And you've heard him talk recently about how he wants to -- you know, he's going to continue to reach out to our friends in Europe and focus on areas where we can work together.
Q But there's no sense that at the beginning of a second term is a good opportunity to -- even if he's done it before in the past, a new, sort of, push or --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you've heard him say what his intentions are. He talked about how that was going to be the first foreign trip after the inaugural, and we're still working on details on that trip. But his focus will be working on strengthening our alliances. And, you know, NATO has an important role to play and we have -- he will focus on strengthening our relationship with the European Union, as well.
Q So do you see this Canada trip as something along those same lines?
MR. McCLELLAN: I see this Canada visit as a way to continue to build upon a good relationship. The President -- like I said, he's met with -- as I said yesterday, the President has met with Prime Minister Martin, I believe, on four previous occasions. He has not met with him in Canada, so this is opportunity for the President to go to Canada and build upon our strong relations.
Q What's the significance of the meeting with the Opposition Leader?
MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, I think that the President does that from time to time on his travels. He'll be talking about some of these issues, as well.
Q Can I ask you about something else? Putin said today that the crisis in the Ukraine must be solved without foreign pressure. You got any response to that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think we've made our views clear, that it's a matter that needs to be resolved peacefully and in a democratic way. That's what our position is. We believe it's important for the international community to signal their strong support for Ukraine's sovereignty and freedom and independence and territorial integrity. I think our views have been made very clear on the elections.
Q Do you take his comment as a "U.S. butt-out" message?
MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't seen his comments. I'll be glad to look at his comments, but I've not seen his comments.
Q Why isn't the President addressing the Parliament? He was invited to do so by the Canadians, and they've said that the White House declined that invitation.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President is going to be speaking directly to the Canadian people tomorrow, from Halifax. I pointed out the significance of Pier 21, where the President will be speaking from tomorrow, yesterday in the briefing. And these are always -- in terms of the details of the trip, these are always matters that we discuss with the host government, and the President looks forward to going to Halifax tomorrow and speaking directly to the Canadian people.
Q Was the U.S. worried about being heckled in Parliament?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I mean, these are issues that are discussed with the host government, in terms of the schedule, the President's schedule. And I think everybody agreed it would be a great opportunity to speak directly to the Canadian people from Halifax.
Q Is it fair to say, as it appears from observation, that the President has a much more friendly personal relationship with Prime Minister Martin than he did with Prime Minister Chrtien?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'd stay away from comparisons. The President and Prime Minister Martin have a good relationship. They've had good visits over the course of the last couple of years and the President looks forward to continuing to work with him.
Q The International Red Cross says the U.S. military has used coercion that says is tantamount to torture on prisoners in Guantanamo. You know anything about that? Do you have a response?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, a couple things. One, we work very closely with the international committee for the Red Cross on detainee issues. When the International Committee for the Red Cross raises issues, we work to address those issues. There are times when we agree and there are times when we disagree. The President's policy for the detainees in Guantanamo Bay is very clear. It's a policy that states that detainees are to be treated humanely and consistent with the Geneva Conventions. And we have every reason to believe that our commanders are following that policy. We would strongly --
Q This isn't the time where we disagree?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we would strongly disagree with any characterization that suggested or implied that the way detainees are being treated at Guantanamo Bay are inconsistent with the policy that the President outlined. I'm not going to get into discussing specific reports by the International Committee for the Red Cross. These are confidential reports that are provided to the commanders on the ground -- and the incidents you're talking about, it would be to commanders in Guantanamo Bay. And we stay in close contact with the Department of Defense on these matters and issues that are raised, and to make sure that the Department of Defense is following up, or following through on those issues that are raised.
Q So when you say when the IRC raises issues we work to address those issues -- not in this case, because you don't agree with their finding?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there are times when we disagree.
Q Is this one of those times?
MR. McCLELLAN: But, you know, the International Committee for the Red Cross -- we provide them access to the detention facilities so they can see how detainees are being treated. And like I said, in terms of your characterization at the beginning, I said we would strongly disagree with any characterization that suggests that the way detainees are being treated in Guantanamo Bay are inconsistent with the policy that the President outlined.
Q But there's no negotiation over this finding?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, like I said, we work -- and they provide reports from time to time to the commanders on the ground, whether it be Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere. And we work very closely with the International Committee for the Red Cross. You know, these are enemy combatants that were picked up on the battlefield who are being detained at Guantanamo Bay. They are enemy combatants who were seeking to do harm to America, or plotting to carry out attacks against Americans. And the President has made it very clear in the past -- you've heard him talk about it -- we are a nation of values and laws and we act according to our values and laws. And that's what the President has always expected.
Q Scott, in the past we've seen examples in Iraq, in particular, where detainee treatment has not been consistent with guidelines, policies from Washington. So are you not even looking to make sure, at this point, that they are?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, no, you're talking about two -- a separate matter. We're talking about Guantanamo Bay here --
Q No, I know, but how do you know that --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- but in terms of Abu Ghraib, I mean, the President made it very clear that he expected people to be brought to justice for any abuses that occurred. And the Department of Defense has moved quickly to hold people accountable and bring people to justice for any abuses that occurred at Abu Ghraib.
Q What is the administration doing to make sure that the treatment in Guantanamo is consistent with the policies --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's what I said, we stay in close contact -- well, we stay in close contact with the Department of Defense on all these issues. You all are aware that we've had representatives from the White House who have visited Guantanamo Bay on a few occasions to see firsthand how detainees are being treated and how the policies are being implemented. And like I said, we have every reason to believe that the treatment of detainees in Guantanamo Bay are consistent with the policies that the President outlined. That's what we expect.
Q But don't you want to know --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I just said, we strongly disagree with any characterization that suggests the way the detainees are being treated is inconsistent with the policies that the President outlined. We are always in close contact with the Department of Defense on issues brought to our attention by the International Committee for the Red Cross. And we want to make sure the Department of Defense is acting and following through on those issues that are raised. That doesn't mean we always agree with some of the characterizations. Like I said, I pointed out one instance which we would strongly disagree with the characterization.
Q Doesn't the President think that this might merit further investigation, though?
MR. McCLELLAN: These are -- no. What might -- wait, what might --
Q The findings of the Red Cross.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, I'm not getting into any specific reports by the International Committee for the Red Cross. They bring issues to our attention. We work very closely with them to address those issues. There will be times when we disagree with those issues and I think the Department of Defense can talk to you more about specifics that come to their attention.
END 10:23 A.M. EST