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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 27, 2005

Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Cleveland, Ohio

10:20 A.M. EST

MR. McCLELLAN: All right, let's see. This morning the President had a phone call with President Yawar from Iraq. This was part of their continuing discussions about the upcoming election. President Yawar talked about the ongoing efforts to encourage broad participation by all Iraqis in the election. And the President -- they also discussed the security situation briefly. And the President talked about his interview yesterday with Al Arabiya and how he encouraged all Iraqis to vote, and how he also talked about his belief that Iraqi forces would be assuming more and more responsibility for their -- for Iraq's security as they improve their capabilities.

Q How long was this --

MR. McCLELLAN: It was less than five minutes. It was a brief phone call.

Q Why does he feel it's necessary --

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me come back to questions after I go through the schedule. He had his usual briefings. The Freedom Corps greeter on arrival is Thomas John -- "TJ" -- Powell, who is a volunteer with the Northeast Ohio Medical Reserve Corps. And they provide medical support services for public events in emergency situations.

And then the President looks forward to participating in a conversation on health care information technology. The participants -- he'll participate in a tour, first of all, of the clinic. And you all will be there to cover that. Then the participants in the conversation will be the Cleveland Clinic's Chief Information Officer, an internist from the Cleveland Clinic, a patient at the Cleveland Clinic, and Associate Chief of Emergency Medicine from Wilmette, Illinois, and the president and chief operating officer of a paperless private practice from the Washington, D.C. area.

We'll get you a fact sheet here shortly, which will include our budget number for this information technology initiative the President is pursuing. And this -- health information technology is part of the President's overall health care agenda to improve the quality of care and reduce costs and make health care more accessible for all Americans.

And another thing that he'll talk about in his remarks today, a new step that he'll be talking about is the announcement of electronic prescribing, or e-prescribing, a proposed regulation by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. And this will improve care for seniors by helping to bring electronic prescriptions to seniors when the prescription drug benefit takes effect next year, and, obviously, it will also increase broader adoption of e-prescribing across the entire health care system.

And you've heard the President talk about the importance of computerized health records and making sure that most Americans -- his goal is to make sure most Americans are -- have electronic medical records in the next 10 years, which will help reduce medical errors, reduce cost and improve the quality of care, as well. And we'll get you the fact sheet once that's final.

And then we're back at the White House. This afternoon, the President has two interviews. He'll be participating in an interview with C-SPAN. Brian Lamb will be the one doing the interview.

Q Who is?

MR. McCLELLAN: Brian Lamb. And then he will -- I'm sorry, that's the second interview. The first interview is he'll participate in an interview with The New York Times when we get back to the White House this afternoon. And that's all I've got.

Q Who called who?

Q -- the budget stuff on the prescription --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- budget number for it? I expect that we'll have that for you --

Q -- we'll be asking for.

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, for this initiative. That will be in the fact sheet and it should be in his remarks. He probably will mention it in his remarks, as well.

Q The President makes all these frequent, but short calls to the Iraqi leadership, but what does he hope to accomplish from this and why does he feel it to be necessary? He just talked to Allawi, I guess, yesterday --

MR. McCLELLAN: Because we're doing everything we can to support the Iraqi people as they move forward to build a peaceful and democratic future. I mean, he's had -- I think this is about the third conversation with President Yawar over the last few weeks, and he's had four or five, I think, with Prime Minister Allawi, as well, as of yesterday.

But, obviously, this is a -- as you heard the President say yesterday, this election is a grand moment for the Iraqi people. It is a historic moment on their path to a democratic and peaceful future. And we're working very closely with the Iraqi security forces to provide as secure an environment as possible for the elections, and we're also doing everything we can to support the Iraqi people as they reach out to all sectors of the Iraqi community to participate in the elections.

And it's a significant achievement, this Sunday, for the Iraqi people, that they will, for the first time, be able to freely choose their leaders. And it's the first of three elections to come over the course of the next year. And so that's -- obviously, he's going to stay in close contact with leaders of the interim government, and I expect will remain in close contact with the leaders that the Iraqi people choose through the elections, and then the national assembly will choose the leaders of that -- of the actual -- of the government, itself.

Q Scott, is Tony Blair right when he says the U.S. has to get on board with the agenda of countries who see climate control as a major priority?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I'm not sure that that's an accurate way to describe what he's saying. First of all --

Q How do you interpret it?

MR. McCLELLAN: I mean, climate change is an issue we take very seriously. And in terms of discussing it at the G8, we welcome a discussion of climate change at the G8. For the past two years, the G8 has acted on concrete proposals to address the long-term challenge we face when it comes to climate change. And the President -- the President looks forward to working with Prime Minister Blair and other G8 nations to continue to advance the science so that we have a better understanding of climate change, as well as to develop new, cleaner technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

And so we have a number of multilateral and bilateral agreements that we are pursuing on climate change to advance the research and better understand the challenges that it poses. We are also working with a number of those countries to advance technologies, cleaner technologies. Carbon sequestration is something that we have been leading the way on. So --

Q Don't you think Prime Minister Blair was telling the U.S. that it should change its approach --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think that there are many areas where we agree on how to move forward on climate change. In terms of the Kyoto Protocol, I mean, our position is very well-known, and it was also a position that was taken in a unanimous vote by the United States Senate, I might point out.

But we are doing a lot to advance the science of climate change, working with the international community and to develop new technologies that will help address the long-term challenge of climate change.

Q Senator Kennedy said that the U.S. should pull back from Iraq and let the U.N. take more of a lead role. What's your response?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think his views are well-known, Holly. The President's views are well known, as well.

Q But what about specifically the idea of the U.N. taking a larger role?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President talked with Secretary General Annan last night and the two leaders discussed the importance of the United Nations continuing to play a role in Iraq after the elections. I think our views have been well-known when it comes to the United Nations -- and they discussed that last night in their phone call.

Q Just to follow up on that, does the President envision, post-election, a larger role for the U.N. in Iraq than it currently has?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we want -- I think that the international community recognizes the importance of doing everything they can to help the Iraqi people move forward as they continue on the path to democracy and a stable and secure future. And I think you see comments coming out of European Union officials talking about how they want to be more involved in helping the Iraqi people. The Iraqi people are going to continue assuming more and more responsibility for their future. They have a sovereign government in place right now. They're choosing their new government. The Iraqi security forces are continuing to be trained to take more responsibility for providing for their security, and that's part of our strategy to complete the mission. But, yes, we believe the United Nations has an important role to continue playing in Iraq's future.

Q Can you tell us anything about this sting operation in Nicaragua where --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm trying to find out more information on that, myself, so I don't have any more on it at this point.

Q Scott, does the President plan to propose a specific Social Security restructuring plan in next week's State of the Union?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think I will leave it where he left it yesterday in the news conference, that he would be talking about it more in his State of the Union address --

Q In more detail?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the State of the Union is still several days away. We'll be -- yes -- I mean, he indicated that yesterday, that he would be talking about how we can move forward on strengthening Social Security. And he's been talking with members of Congress about that, as well.

Q Senator Wyden, I guess, yesterday was on the floor during Leavitt's confirmation or voting. He was saying that --

MR. McCLELLAN: Secretary Leavitt.

Q Secretary Leavitt -- saying that this -- the health care technology point man, your guy with his office, was underfunded, basically defunded by Congress last year. Do you think the Congress needs to do more to appropriate that office in particular?

MR. McCLELLAN: The budget is coming out soon, but like I said, we're talking about the money that we're putting towards this initiative, and one of the first things the President did upon announcing this initiative was to put in place a point person to oversee expansion of health information technology and build upon the efforts that have already -- that were already taking place. And we want to do everything we can to move towards the President's goal where most Americans will have electronic medical records at the end of 10 years.

Q Again, what's the budget figure you're releasing today?

MR. McCLELLAN: It will be in the fact sheet when it comes out. So I need to verify --

Q What does it have to do with --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry? Health information technology, his initiative.

All right. Thanks.

END 10:31 A.M. EST