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

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 8, 2005

Press Gaggle with Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Detroit, Michigan

11:07 A.M. EST

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me begin with the President's schedule for the day. He had his usual briefings before we departed. I'll come back -- well, let me just give a quick, brief refresher on today's speech. I did preview that yesterday at the beginning of the briefing.

But the President will really focus in today's speech on the three pillars of our strategy to expand prosperity -- expand and extend prosperity to our children and grandchildren. And those three pillars are, first, making sure that we exercise responsible spending restraint. So he'll talk about some of the budget issues he touched on yesterday in his speech -- and the hope -- the importance of making sure that programs focus on results and that they're achieving their intended results, and that they have an essential -- that they play an essential role -- or that they are an essential federal priority, I guess is the way I would say it.

He'll talk about the importance of building upon the pro-growth economic policies that we've implemented to continue to sustain the strong economic growth that we're seeing. At the beginning of the remarks, he'll talk about how we've overcome a lot of the challenges to our economy and go through some of what you've heard there before.

And then, finally, the third pillar being modernizing important institutions, whether it's our educational institutions like the No Child Left Behind Act, and expanding that to high school, as well; or supporting community colleges to help make sure we have an educated work force for the 21st century -- and I expect he'll spend a good bit of time talking about the serious problems facing Social Security, as well, and why we need to act to address that and make sure that it is there for our children and grandchildren -- that it has served an important purpose, but now we need to modernize and strengthen it for future generations. And so that's really the overview of his remarks today.

Let's see -- then after that we will return back to the White House, and the President will participate in a celebration of Black History Month, in the East Room. It's open press. He'll make some brief remarks at that celebration. And then, following that, the President will be meeting with some Republican members of the House to talk about the importance of strengthening Social Security and acting to address it this year. That's part of his ongoing discussions that he's having with members of Congress to get this important priority done this year.

Q Who?

MR. McCLELLAN: We'll try to get you names later today.

Q Any coverage?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, no coverage on that.

Q -- leadership, or is it just --

MR. McCLELLAN: It's some House Republican members. We'll work on giving you names later.

Q -- will it be --

MR. McCLELLAN: We'll work on getting you the names later.

Q What about the category of them?

Q Are they people who are skeptical about Social Security?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he's had a number of meetings. He's going to continue to have a number of meetings. And these are some House Republicans that -- we'll try to get you the list later today.

Q Can you say they're all confirmed "yes" votes for his proposal?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'll let those members speak for themselves.

Q How did you pick them, just by height, or by name?

MR. McCLELLAN: It's part of -- legislative affairs continues to set up these meetings as part of the ongoing outreach. But, again, I don't have the list on me right this second, but we'll get you the list later. I mean, obviously --

Q The list for the criteria that they used to select --

MR. McCLELLAN: We can obviously talk about it later today. The way I would describe it is the way I did. I mean, it's just part of the continuing outreach to members of Congress and part of the ongoing discussions to get Social Security done this year. And there will continue to be a variety of meetings.

Q What time is the meeting?

MR. McCLELLAN: At 3:55 p.m. And whether or not they go to the stakeout, I don't know.

Q Where is it?

MR. McCLELLAN: The Cabinet Room. And, obviously, I'll be available if we want to talk about it later, too. I'll be attending the meeting, as well.

Hang on, I've got some announcements to make, and then we'll jump to other stuff. Thursday -- let me update the schedule -- the President is going to focus on Social Security in two events on Thursday. He'll be participating in a town hall meeting on strengthening Social Security in Raleigh, North Carolina. And following that, he'll participate in a conversation on strengthening Social Security, and that will be in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania.

Q Town hall and conversation are different --

MR. McCLELLAN: It's like the ones last week, where the conversations are really -- you have panel participants that he discusses issues with, and the importance of addressing this issue, listens to their concerns that they have. And the town hall, typically he'll start with that, but then he'll also take questions from the audience that is at the event, as well.

We'll have a statement out shortly announcing that the President will host Romanian President Basescu at the White House on March 9th, 2005. So we'll put a statement out on that. By the way, we also have a fact sheet on today's event that goes over these three pillars and the key priorities within each of those pillars, as well.

And finally, I want to make some announcements on the White House staff. I think this essentially -- I think it essentially finishes up the senior staff of the White House going forward into the second term. Karl Rove will now assume the position of Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor to the President. In this -- in his role, Karl will continue to oversee the strategy to advance the President's agenda. He will also coordinate policy within the various White House councils, as previous deputy chiefs have done. And those previous Deputy Chiefs of Staff, obviously, are Harriet Miers, who's now the Counsel to the President, and Josh Bolten, before that.

Q Is that in place --

MR. McCLELLAN: Hang on, hang on. Let me go -- let me go on. Let me walk through this, because there are some changes within that, but generally speaking, that's what he will do, and also make sure that we have an open and fair process for the development of policy and to make sure that policy is complementary and consistent within the various councils. I mean, the various councils will continue to develop the policy -- the Domestic Policy Council, the National Economic Council, the National Security Council, and the Homeland Security Council. Those are the four White House Councils, really. And Karl will continue to oversee the intergovernment affairs, political affairs, and strategic initiatives. And I don't know if, recently, we announced that Sara Taylor will be coming on to be -- oversee political affairs. She'll fill that role for overseeing the political affairs aspects of things.

And then there is some exception to the way it was previously done within the Deputy Chiefs of Staff. Joe Hagin will also have an expanded portfolio as -- in his role as Deputy Chief of Staff. He will represent the Chief of Staff at deputy's meetings when it comes to intelligence matters, counterterrorism efforts, proliferation and counter-proliferation, and DOD, and -- Department of Defense and Homeland Security Council.

Q Andy won't go to those meetings?

MR. McCLELLAN: So those -- those policies that were part of the portfolio, under Josh and Harriet -- this is the deputy's meetings, so he represents the Chief of Staff at those. It's as it has always been, but Joe will have that part of those efforts.

Q Karl's not going to have, like, foreign policy --

MR. McCLELLAN: Hang on, hang on. Let me go -- let me go through -- no, it's not correct, per se, because international economic affairs, he'll -- obviously, things like that, he'll be involved in. But those areas that I mentioned will fall more under Joe's portfolio.

And now, Mike Gerson, his new position is Assistant to the President for Planning -- Assistant to the President for Policy and Strategic Planning. And in Mike's role -- Mike's role, he'll continue to oversee major policy addresses and be involved in that. And Bill McGurn is now the Chief Speechwriter, as everyone is well aware. And he'll have specific policy areas, both domestic and foreign that -- will be a primary responsibility of his. Those would include the compassion agenda, so he'll be very involved with the efforts like -- by the Office of National AIDS Policy, USA Freedom Corps, the faith-based and community initiatives. Jim Towey continues to oversee and coordinate the faith-based and community initiatives efforts. But Mike will be very involved in that. He'll be very involved on the international front in democracy and human rights issues and things of that nature.

Obviously, when it comes to Karl, he is one of the President's most trusted advisors who has played an integral role in the strategy and policy development for a long time. So now he has a more expanded role. Mike is someone who -- whose advice the President has looked to and valued on a number of those areas I just mentioned. He's someone who will be very much involved in pushing forward on efforts to expand the compassion agenda and advance democracy and freedom. So he'll be very involved in those efforts.

Now, also with this, a couple other announcements. Kristen Silverberg, her new role will be Deputy Assistant to the President for Policy, so she'll help with coordination of policy within the White House. And so she'll help with the coordination of the policy development among those four councils.

Q How do you spell her name?

MR. McCLELLAN: Hang on -- and help coordinate policy briefings for the President and things of that nature, as well. S-i-l-v-e-r-b-e-r-g. And finally, I think that some of you are aware that Claire Buchan is going to be Chief of Staff to Secretary Gutierrez at the Department of Commerce. She has done an outstanding job serving the President, and an outstanding job as Deputy Press Secretary. We will miss her.

At the same time, we have an outstanding person who will be joining the press office team, and that is Dana Perino. She has been the Communications Director for the Council on Environmental Quality, and previously worked at the Justice Department, and some other areas, as well. And she looks forward to working with all of you in the press corps, and she'll be starting -- she's already starting to transition with Claire this week. Claire's last day will be Friday, and Dana will be starting immediately, as well.

Q What's Kristen's position on -- I don't actually know, what is her title now?

MR. McCLELLAN: She's been Deputy Assistant for Domestic Policy.

Q So Deputy Assistant --

MR. McCLELLAN: It's a more expanded role for her. Well, as I said, she will help coordinate among all those councils, whereas it was previously more so on the Domestic Policy Council.

Q Now she's policy --

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, and working within the Chief of Staff's office operation.

Q She's Deputy Assistant to the President for policy?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's correct.

Q And before it was just domestic policy?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's correct.

Q Okay.

Q Politics is still in Karl's portfolio, right?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, Sara Taylor is the new person overseeing political affairs, that division. But then Karl also has intergovernmental affairs and strategic initiatives under him.

Q What is Sara's job?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, she took Matt Schlapp's position.

Q Oh, right.

MR. McCLELLAN: And we previously announced that, I think, a few weeks ago, actually. So those are the announcements I have.

Q Does your job stay the same? (Laughter.)

MR. McCLELLAN: My job stays the same.

Q Is the President going to --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm going to continue working with you all. And I do enjoy it still.

Q Is the President going to ask the RNC to back off of Harry Reid at all?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q Is the President going to ask the RNC to back off --

MR. McCLELLAN: I think the President has made it very clear that he intends to work closely with members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike, on our common priorities. And the President wants to work closely -- that includes working closely with Senator Reid. The President has reached out to him and will continue to do so on ways we can work together to advance common priorities.

And he attended a private dinner at the White House last night. The President was pleased that he did, and they had a good visit there. And -- they've had a number of previous conversations, too. But the President has always been someone who has worked to elevate the tone and reach out to members on both sides of the aisle. And that's exactly what he will continue to do.

Q Is he finding it constructive, though, what the RNC is doing? Is that helping him at all in his effort to reach --

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, the President's focus is on reaching out to all members who want to work together to advance our shared priorities. And that's what he will --

Q Does the letter --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- and Senator -- well, you can talk to the Republican National Committee about what they did. I'm not familiar with all the aspects of what they're doing.

Q It's not like they do what they do in a vacuum --

MR. McCLELLAN: I can tell you -- I speak for the President -- I can tell you that the President has made it very clear time and time again that he is interested in working together to accomplish the people's business here in Washington, D.C. And that's what he will continue to do. He has talked to Senator Reid on a number of occasions since the election, reached out in private phone conversations, as well as talked to him last night in the private dinner that he invited him to attend at the White House. That's the way the President will continue to operate.

Q What about the Mideast? Can you comment on the cease-fire?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. We commend the strong leadership of President Abbas, Prime Minister Sharon, President Mubarak, and King Abdullah. The cessation of violence and terrorism is an important step on the path to ending terrorism in the region, and dismantling the terrorist infrastructure -- which is called for under the road map. And as you heard from Secretary Rice, the United States will continue playing -- will continue doing its part to help the parties move forward on the President's two-state vision of Israel and Palestine living side-by-side in peace.

Anything else? Gave you a good bit to chew on for today.

Q Does he or does he not support the letter from the RNC about Senator Reid?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think I addressed -- I think I've addressed the issue.

Q You just dodged the question.

MR. McCLELLAN: I think you can direct those questions -- you can direct questions about RNC letters to the RNC just like you would about the Democratic National Committee. The President is committed to reaching out and working together on shared priorities. That's what he'll continue to do.

Q Well, you're basically saying the President is not going to tell the RNC to call it off?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I can tell you the way the President has operated and will continue to operate. And that's what he will continue to do. That's the way he has always led in Washington, D.C., and that's the way he will continue to do.

He believes that we were elected to -- we were elected to focus on the priorities of the American people, and part of that means working together on shared priorities and the President -- look at the President's actions and his words. He has always worked to elevate the tone. He has always -- he always worked to reach to out to Democratic and Republican leaders and bring people together to get things done. And we have. And that's what we will -- that's what we will continue to do.

Q The only thing we can take from what you're saying is that you don't like the letter. So is that what you're saying, or not?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think I've responded from the President's standpoint and what he believes and what his focus is. And what is -- and what his focus will --

Q -- this letter --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- and what his focus will --

Q -- put out by an organization --

MR. McCLELLAN: And what his focus will continue to do. And you might want to ask - you might want to talk to the RNC about that, so I'm going to speak for the President and his views and what he believes we ought to focus on, and what he has done all along.

Q Does the President find the RNC support helpful in building public support for his Social Security plan?

MR. McCLELLAN: Look, the President is going to continue to focus on how we can work together to get things done. That's what he -- that's what he has done. That's what he'll continue to do, and that means reaching out to leaders on both sides of the aisle. He has done that, he will continue to do that.

Q But this is a separate question, just in terms of building a national consensus for the President's plan, the RNC has been very constructive in that regard. And so I would think the President -- or I wonder if the President enjoyed their support in terms of getting to this common goal.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, in terms of Social Security?

Q Yes.

MR. McCLELLAN: It's important that -- it's important that we all recognize the serious problem facing Social Security and that we focus on solutions to fix the problem. And so the President has been very clear that he welcomes all -- he welcomes all ideas.

Q But he likes their help in that regard?

MR. McCLELLAN: He welcomes all ideas that will help us solve this important priority. And that's what he'll continue to do.

Q -- cease-fire in his remarks today?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the remarks will focus on what I said. So I think I've addressed it from our standpoint. I'll try to let you know if anything changes, though, on that.

Q You've got to send -- have you decided whether to send legislation up to the Hill on Social Security, or just work with members who have their own legislation?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President is focused on finding a bipartisan solution that addresses this important priority this year because the problem only gets worse over time. And so we're going to - and that part of his meetings today. We're going to continue to talk with Republican and Democratic leaders about how best to get this done. And the President has talked about his specific proposal for personal accounts. He's -- and he'll again talk today about how we need to have an honest and open discussion about how to strengthen Social Security and how to get it done. And so he'll welcome -- he welcomes all ideas. And so those are matters that we'll continue to discuss with members of Congress about how best to proceed going forward.

Q Okay. All right, Scott, thank you.

END 11:26 A.M. EST

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