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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 23, 2004

Press Gaggle by Claire Buchan
Crawford Middle School
Crawford, Texas

1:45 P.M. CST

MS. BUCHAN: Let me start with a little bit about the President's day. He had his usual intelligence, national security and FBI briefings this morning. He also participated in a national security meeting by secure video conference. The subject of that was Iraq. And I also have a statement for you by the deputy press secretary, which will be coming out after the gaggle.

"The United States is deeply disturbed by extensive and credible indications of fraud committed in the Ukranian presidential election. We strongly support efforts to review the conduct of the election and urge Ukranian authorities not to certify results until investigations of organized fraud are resolved. We call on the government of Ukraine to respect the will of the Ukranian people and we urge all Ukrainians to resolve the situation through peaceful means. The government bears a special responsibility not to use or incite violence, and to allow free media to report accurately on the situation without intimidation or coercion. The United States stands with the Ukranian people in this difficult time."

And with that, I will take your questions.

Q Thanks, Claire. Is the President planning, at all, to lean on Secretary Rumsfeld on the intelligence bill and get him to make public statements to help get it passed and resolve the problems, the impasse?

Q Claire, you might summarize the questions for us because we can't hear.

MS. BUCHAN: The question was about the intelligence bill and whether or not the President was planning to -- quote -- "lean on Secretary Rumsfeld" to urge its passage.

I would say the President has made very clear that he believes the Congress should act on the intelligence bill. He has personally been very involved, as has the Vice President, in urging members of Congress to move forward with intelligence reform. As you know, when the President landed in Chile on Friday, he called Congressman Sensenbrenner; the weekend before, he was in touch with Congressman Hunter. Members of the White House staff, including Chief of Staff Card, have also been working very hard on this issue. Members of the senior staff and the legislative staff plan to participate in Republican retreats next week. So we're going to work very hard on this issue; it's something the President wants to get done.

Q -- speaking with Rumsfeld himself?

MS. BUCHAN: Well, I think Secretary Rumsfeld is actually speaking right now, and I heard him expressing support for passage of the bill. I'll let him speak for himself, but he's speaking right now.

Q I'm asking what the President is going to do in terms of talking to the Secretary and trying to say, hey, can you help to do whatever you can to get behind this. Have there been conversations to that effect?

MS. BUCHAN: I'm not aware of any conversations, but the President has publicly made clear how committed he is to this legislation and he, at his press conference in Chile, made clear that he believes that this is important for reforming our intelligence and moving forward to help ensure that we're doing everything possible to make sure our intelligence is the best that it can be so that we can protect the American people.

Q On that point, does the White House feel that Rumsfeld has been anything but supportive about the bill?

MS. BUCHAN: Well, I think that the President has made clear through statements -- and the administration has been very clear in its statements of administration policy that the President wants to get this done. We've worked very hard with members of Congress. They made a lot of progress; there was a deal on the table last week. And we continue to work to try and get this passed. As you saw, the Speaker and the Leader have both indicated that they're going to keep working this bill and the President urges them to do that.


Q Claire, since Chile, has the President reached out to Sensenbrenner or to Hunter or to Rumsfeld and specifically talking about the need to push for the reform?

MS. BUCHAN: I don't believe he has made calls to members of Congress since he's returned.


Q Claire, as the Commander-in-Chief, is he pleased with the support he's receiving from the Joint Chiefs of Staff on this legislative issue?

MS. BUCHAN: I'm not quite sure what you're referring to, James.

Q Is the -- as the Commander-in-Chief, is the President pleased with the support he has received from the Joint Chiefs of Staff in navigating this legislative issue?

MS. BUCHAN: Well, I think the Joint Chiefs of Staff has, at various points in the process, made their views clear on these issues. Those views were reviewed and the President's view has been reflected both in his statements and in the statements of administration policy. And we continue to work to push to get the job done.

Q But does the President, as the Commander-in-Chief, feel that he is receiving the support that he is entitled to as Commander-in-Chief, from the Joint Chiefs of Staff on this issue?

MS. BUCHAN: Well, this is an issue that the Congress needs to act on and we are continuing to work with the Congress to get the job done. That is where the action lies at this point. You see that, as I said, that Secretary Rumsfeld is currently talking about the importance of passing this legislation and we hope that the Congress will act.

Q Can I try it from one more perspective, and then I will leave you alone? Is the President displeased with the behavior of any of the top uniform commanders at this time, that you can say? Is he displeased?

MS. BUCHAN: No, James, as I said, Secretary Rumsfeld is currently talking about this issue, even as we speak. And when I walked in here, he was expressing his support for passage of this legislation. The President urges the Congress to act. We have been in touch with members of Congress. We expect to continue to be, and the Speaker, and Leader Frist have both expressed their desire for the Congress to keep working in these upcoming days and weeks. Congress, as you know, did not adjourn for the year. They held open the possibility that they could come back and get this done. And the President hopes that they will do so, and we expect to continue to work very hard to ensure that they do get it done.

Q So that was a "no" to my question just now?


Q Following on that a bit, then. What type of dissent, if any, has the President received from any members of his Cabinet or from the Joint Chiefs regarding this bill? Of course, Secretary Rumsfeld said he'd support the President's decision, as you would expect him to, but what type of dissent has the President received, as least in terms of discussing this bill, from the Joint Chiefs or from Secretary Rumsfeld?

MS. BUCHAN: Not conceding your point that he would receive any or not, we would, obviously, never talk about specific conversations that the President would have with members of his Cabinet or members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The President does welcome the views of his administration. He wants to hear from people as to how they believe various legislation would -- what the effects of that would be, and then decisions are made.

And I think our view has been very clear. We've made it clear both in statements of administration policy, as I said, and in a letter that went up to Congress maybe three or four weeks ago, expressing our views on various aspects of the legislation, and calling on them, importantly, to get the job done.

Q Claire, can you give us a little more information about this visit tomorrow, the King and Queen of Spain? Is this an attempt to smooth over ruffled relations with Spain, particularly since they pulled out of Iraq?

MS. BUCHAN: Well, Spain is an important ally -- a long-standing, important ally of the United States. And the President looks forward to welcoming the King and Queen to the ranch tomorrow for lunch. They'll be having a private meeting. I don't anticipate that we'll have a readout of that, but the President does look forward to greeting the King and Queen and to hosting them.

Q Well, how about in terms of smoothing over diplomatic relations? Is this viewed as that, an effort to do that?

MS. BUCHAN: Well, we reach out to various people all the time. Spain is a long-standing ally, and the King is an important figure in Spain, and the President looks forward to hosting him at his ranch tomorrow.


Q Is there any plans in the future for the President to meet with Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero, who he has yet to meet with?

MS. BUCHAN: I have no plans to report to you.

Q -- the question?

MS. BUCHAN: Whether or not the President had plans to meet with Prime Minister Zapatero.

Q Can you tell us -- I promised to leave you alone, but I was lying -- can you tell us about how the President will go about replacing Steve Friedman?

MS. BUCHAN: As you have seen, Steve Friedman does intend to resign from his position in the National Economic Council. I expect you'll be hearing more about that in the next couple of days. He has been an outstanding member, leading the economic team for the last two years, as we have achieved passage of the jobs and growth bill, which has contributed to the economic recovery and the job creation that we've seen. And we'll keep you posted on details, James, in terms of who will be his successor.

Q -- the President traveling, and where, on Thanksgiving Day?

MS. BUCHAN: You're probably asking the wrong person, but -- (laughter) --

Q Anyway, you're who we have, right?

MS. BUCHAN: You must have a short memory.

Q Yes, well, short and wounded.

MS. BUCHAN: I expect that you'll be able to enjoy a leisurely week here.

Q Has the President called Zapatero back, after the congratulatory calls?

MS. BUCHAN: I don't believe he has. We typically have read those out. I'll double check, but I don't believe so.

Q Claire, on the intelligence bill, one of the stumbling block issues was this question over whether --

MS. BUCHAN: One of the what?

Q One of the -- kind of one of the issues of contention was whether the illegal immigrants should be allowed to get driver's licenses. What is the President's position on that issue, apart from the bill -- from the --

MS. BUCHAN: I would have to go back, Peter, and look at the statements of administration policy and see if we had expressed a specific position on that issue. We urge the Congress to act on the overall issue. We want a bill that has a strong national intelligence director, that creates a counter-terrorism center. The legislation that was on the table at the end of last week -- over the weekend, did include those provisions. And we're going to continue to work with Congress, because it's important that they get a bill done, and that a bill include those provisions. And you'd have to go back and look at some of the -- we've gone through, point-by-point, on the bill, on some of the major issues. I just have to go back and look on the specifics.

Q Sorry, we can't hear the questions at all. What was that?

MS. BUCHAN: The question was on whether or not the administration supported the driver's license provisions that are at issue in the intel bill.

Q I'm duty bound to ask if there's any White House comment about the announcement that Dan Rather is stepping down as anchor of the evening news?

MS. BUCHAN: Well, Dan Rather has had a distinguished and long career as a journalist. I'm sure his -- many of his viewers will miss him, and we wish him the best.

Q Do those viewers include the President?

MS. BUCHAN: Any other questions? (Laughter.)

Q Claire, I have another question. Did the President request Rumsfeld or Myers to make their support of the intelligence reform bill public today, that they expressed their --

MS. BUCHAN: I don't know if he has asked them to do that, Suzanne. I'll see if I can check. But I've not heard that, but that doesn't mean that that's not the case.

Anything else? Thank you all.

Q What else is he --

MS. BUCHAN: Well, he was doing -- he was clearing a little brush. He's been in contact with various staff members, both here and in Washington, by phone. I don't anticipate anything else of note. If there is anything to read out, we will.

END 1:56 P.M. CST

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