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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 10, 2005
Press Gaggle with Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Louisville, Kentucky
11:20 A.M. EST
MR. McCLELLAN: All right, the President had his usual briefings, and then he met with some Republican members from the House to talk about the importance of strengthening Social Security and making it permanently sound. They had a good discussion.
When we land in Louisville -- both these events today, both these conversations on Social Security -- conversations on strengthening Social Security today focus on really two generations. The theme is "seniors and seniors," so at the conversations you're going to have grandparents with their grandkids, who are seniors in college.
Some of the new language that you might hear and some of the points the President makes will focus on -- one, we continue to educate the American people about the problems facing Social Security. We're also making sure seniors understand that nothing changes for them.
And so one of the things the President will talk about is, is just that, that there have been a lot of scare tactics out there suggesting that those who are now retired or near retirement -- that it will affect them, and it won't. And as he talks about that, he will talk about the importance of how -- that seniors understand the importance of a secure retirement, and how they want to help their children and grandchildren have the opportunity to realize something they were not able to do, and that is the ability to have control over their own retirement, or over a part of their own retirement, and be able to pass that on to their grandchildren, if they -- be able to pass that on to their grandchildren. So that's talking about personal accounts, and helping them realize a greater rater of return on their own retirement savings.
And the second aspect that the President, I think, will spend some time focusing on, is talking about the importance of how American -- talking about how Americans want us to solve problems, and not pass them on, and that means that we need to permanently fix Social Security. We need solutions, not band-aids. And one thing that we saw in 1983 was that people were able to come together in Congress and, "fix the system," and that was supposed to be a 75-year fix. The only problem with that was that two years later Social Security was again headed on an unsustainable course. And now here we are a couple of decades later, having to address this very issue. So he'll talk about the importance of making Social Security permanently sound.
And you'll have two grandfathers and their granddaughters at the first event, along with a Social Security expert, in Louisville. They are seniors from the University of Louisville, the granddaughters. And then you will have two seniors from Auburn University and their grandfathers and a Social Security expert at the second event.
And then we will overnight in Memphis this evening. And I think that's what I've got to bring to your attention for today.
Q Can you talk about this -- these conversations with France and others about allowing Hezbollah into the --
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know what you're talking about. I mean, our view on Hezbollah has not changed. What our goal is, which is shared by the international community, is to see Syria get out of Lebanon, which is called for in Security Council Resolution 1559. We want to see free and fair elections, without outside intimidation and outside interference. And we want all Lebanese people, from all walks of life, to participate in those elections. And I think that experience shows that when people are able to choose their leaders, they choose people who are committed to improving their lives, not terrorists. And I think experience has shown that.
But our view on Hezbollah has not changed. Our focus remains on working with the international community to make sure that Syria gets out of Lebanon, so that the parliamentary elections in May can proceed forward in a free and fair way.
Q Let me try it a different way. Is it just reality -- the administration realizes that if you have free and open elections, that Hezbollah, in addition to being what you consider it to be, also has significant political standing and organizational strength within Lebanon, and would be a factor in those elections.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, this is not about Hezbollah, this is about ensuring that the Lebanese people have free and fair elections. And in terms of 1559, it also calls for the disarming of militias. I mean, that's spelled out in 1559. But that's why free and fair elections are so important, because when you have free and fair elections, you see the power of democracy. People will step forward and choose leaders committed to improving their lives. And experience shows us that. We see that in elections all across the world.
Q Is the President satisfied with $70 billion in tax cuts over five years in the Senate budget resolution?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there's a House budget resolution, too. And the two chambers will come together and reconcile their resolutions and come up with one. We appreciate Congress moving forward on a budget resolution that meets our priorities and holds the line on spending elsewhere. And we're continuing to work with Congress. There's still work to be done to complete that budget -- the budget resolution process. And we'll continue working closely with members of Congress. But we appreciate the work of the leaders on -- in both chambers.
Q That sounds like an endorsement -- or at least somewhat an endorsement.
MR. McCLELLAN: We'll continue working with both chambers to pass a budget resolution that reflects a commitment to fund our priorities -- our highest priorities, and holds the line on spending, as well.
Q With the focus today on seniors, why do you think it is that --
MR. McCLELLAN: And what I was pointing out to you is that the process is still ongoing at this point.
Q Why do you think it is that so far, the President has been so uneffective at getting through to seniors with his message?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not sure that's the case. It's interesting, this morning, some of the members who attended the meeting talked about their town hall meetings, and some of them pointed out that seniors are starting to realize that this would have no impact on them. So the President -- the President is still very early in his educational efforts and his outreach efforts to the American people. And when we go into communities and talk about it, I think seniors -- once seniors realize that it doesn't affect them, they believe it's also important to act to help their children and grandchildren. They recognize that Social Security is an important safety net, but it has a hole in it. And we need to make sure that safety net is there for their children and grandchildren.
Q The polls seem to -- the polls seem to suggest that most seniors are still really worried about it.
MR. McCLELLAN: I think a lot of seniors are concerned for their children and grandchildren, and they want to make sure that they have a secure retirement. And that's one of the things the President will talk about. But we're going to continue assuring seniors that nothing changes for them, because some -- there are some people -- there are scare ads that are out there trying to suggest to seniors that this is going to affect them. And I don't think, in the end, seniors are going to be moved by such scare tactics.
Q On the Hezbollah story, are you basically denying the report in The New York Times about --
MR. McCLELLAN: The report suggests that our view has changed on Hezbollah, and it has not. Yes -- that's what I'm --
Q So you're denying it?
MR. McCLELLAN: It's wrong -- yes.
Q Who's on board? Northup?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes.
Q We have -- we have members from both states on board? How many members are on board?
MR. McCLELLAN: One.
Q Just one?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes.
Q Who is on board?
MR. McCLELLAN: Northup.
Q You seem like you want to tell us something.
MR. McCLELLAN: The main point that -- I think the point the President has made is that the future of Lebanon belongs to the Lebanese people. He wants the Lebanese people to determine their future, and that's where our focus is going to remain.
Q It was all Republicans this morning, right?
MR. McCLELLAN: What?
Q Meeting at the White House, the members?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes.
END 11:29 P.M. EST