print-only banner
The White House Skip Main Navigation
  
In Focus
News
News by Date
Appointments
Federal Facts
West Wing

Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 16, 2005

Press Briefing by Scott McClellan
James S. Brady Briefing Room

Play Video  Video (Real)

12:49 P.M. EDT

MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon, everybody. I don't have anything to begin with today, so I'll be glad to go straight to the questions that you have.

Q When you talk about the President having a sharper focus on Iraq, at the same time that a lot of public opinion polls are showing greater concern among citizens and worries about what's happening there, and some lawmakers calling for a more specific exit strategy, when you say, sharper focus, what specifically should we expect to hear from you?

MR. McCLELLAN: Sure. Well, the President is going to spend -- well, let me back up and talk about it, and then you can follow up with any specific questions you have. The President is going to spend more time focusing, in his public appearances, on the two big priorities that are on the minds of the American people. Those are winning the war on terrorism, of which Iraq is central, and economic security, making sure that we have lasting prosperity.

When it comes to Iraq, the President looks forward next week to meeting with Prime Minister Jaafari, who will be here in Washington. He was the elected --- first elected leader of Iraq in some 50 years. He was chosen when the 8.5 million Iraqis showed up at the polls and said, we're going to defy the terrorists. So the President recognizes that the war on terrorism, Iraq specifically, and the economy, are two top concerns on the minds of the American people. They are two top priorities for the President.

And we are also coming up on some important milestones and events in Iraq. One, on June 28th, that's going to mark the one-year anniversary of the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi people. And in that one-year period, there has been significant progress on the political front. And, two, the interim government -- interim elected government is moving forward on drafting a constitution on the timetable of August 15th, which was set out in the transitional administrative law.

So that's where the President will be focusing on, those two priorities. I didn't get into length about economic security. You were asking specifically about Iraq. People are concerned about the situation in Iraq. There are scores of troops that we have in harm's way, and there are many families here at home that want to see those troops come home and come home soon. We want to, too. The President wants to see the troops come home soon. But the best way to honor the service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform is to complete the mission.

Iraq is critical to winning the war on terrorism. It is critical to our long-term security here at home. A free Iraq will help transform a dangerous region of the world. A free Iraq will send a signal to the rest of the Middle East, those who -- the people in the Middle East who are standing up for freedom. And so the President will be talking about this. He will be continuing to update the American people about the progress that we are making, the difficulties and dangers that remain, and the strategy we have for succeeding. And that means training Iraqi security forces so that they're able to defend themselves and so that our troops can return with the honor that they deserve.

The stakes are very high in Iraq. I think no matter where you stood on the decision to go to war, that most Americans can agree that succeeding in Iraq is critical to our safety and security. It would be absolutely the wrong message to send to set some sort of artificial timetable. It would be the wrong message to send to the terrorists; it would be the wrong message to send to the Iraqi people; and it would be the wrong message to send to our troops. Our troops understand the importance of completing the mission. They understand the importance of the work that they are doing. And it's important that we continue to stand with the Iraqi people who have stood up and said, we're going to defy the terrorists by showing that we want democracy and freedom. It's important to stand with our troops who are serving and sacrificing for an important cause. And it's important to make clear to the terrorists that they are going to be defeated. This is going to be a major blow to their ambitions. This is going to

Q In completing the mission, would the President give any further definition as to what that would look like in a measurable way that people could anticipate what the progress would be? Absent a timetable, is there some other way that he would further define that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Sure, I mean, you've had updates from Secretary Rumsfeld and Vice-Chairman, soon to be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff earlier this week talking about the training and equipping of Iraqi security forces. That's one of the issues he'll be talking about with Prime Minister Jaafari. That is critical to our strategy, is training and equipping those Iraqi security forces. And we have some, I think, some 160,000 that are now trained and equipped. They're at various levels of training, and I think that the Department of Defense has spoken about that.

But it's also -- it's important to point out that there are still challenges ahead, there are still dangers ahead, because the terrorists recognize how high these stakes are. You have a determined enemy that is willing to strap suicide bombs onto themselves and cause mass damage and kill innocent civilians. That's the kind of enemy that we're facing. These are terrorists. These are nothing but terrorists. And they recognize the stakes that are involved in Iraq. That's why it's so critical that we succeed.

Q Scott, when you talk about narrowing the focus to the war on terror and economic security, that encompasses terrorism on a global scale, encompasses Iraq, as you said; and the economic security side you're talking about energy, gas prices, retirement security, health care security. How is that narrowing the focus, and how is it any different from what you've been doing for the past four months?

MR. McCLELLAN: Actually I said that he's going to be spending a lot of time of that focus on Iraq, because Iraq is the central front in the war on terrorism. And it's what I spelled out to you all earlier today when we visited, and I laid out some of the schedule coming up, and how he would be talking and focusing on Iraq and the situation there.

Q He's been doing that for the last four months.

MR. McCLELLAN: And in terms of -- in terms of the economy -- well, there are a number of important priorities that we're focused on and that we're working on. But in the coming days and weeks, he's going to really focus on those two big priorities. Those are two big concerns to the American people, and we're going to focus even more so -- like I said, it's sharpening our focus on those two priorities.

Q But, I mean, on the economic security, I don't understand how it's sharpening the focus if you talk about energy and retirement security and health care and tax cuts and gas prices -- it seems like what you've been talking about.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, maybe you don't. I think the American people understand, because the American people, they recognize that our economy is growing, that it's strong. We've seen 3.5 million jobs created since May of 2003. That's the last -- 24 straight months of job creation and job growth. Home ownership is at an all-time highs. More Americans are working than ever before. Inflation and interest rates are low. So there's a lot of good progress we're making, but there is more we need to do to keep our economy growing stronger.

And the American people have concerns. They have concerns about high gas prices. Those high gas prices have a very harmful effect on families and small businesses that are trying to work to make ends meet. And they have concerns about the changing economy that we're living in. They have concerns about their own retirement security and if their retirement funds are going to be there when they retire. So those are all important parts of economic security. So I think the American people understand and are concerned about these issues. And that's why the President is going to be spending more time focusing on these issues in his public appearances.

Q Scott, is the insurgency in Iraq in its last throes?

MR. McCLELLAN: Terry, you have a desperate group of terrorists in Iraq that are doing everything they can to try to derail the transition to democracy. The Iraqi people have made it clear that they want a free and democratic and peaceful future. And that's why we're doing everything we can, along with other countries, to support the Iraqi people as they move forward. The fact that they are making great progress on the political front is significant because that helps defeat the terrorists, because the terrorists don't want to see democracy take hold. They don't want lasting democratic institutions to be put in place. And that's why we are standing with the Iraqi people as they move forward on the political front.

We're also standing with the Iraqi people as they move forward on -- to address the security situation. We are working side by side with Iraqi forces now to defeat those terrorists and regime elements who want to derail the transition to democracy. And every day we move forward on democracy and training Iraqi security forces is every day closer that we are to succeeding in Iraq.

Q But the insurgency is in its last throes?

MR. McCLELLAN: The Vice President talked about that the other day -- you have a desperate group of terrorists who recognize how high the stakes are in Iraq. A free Iraq will be a significant blow to their ambitions.

Q But they're killing more Americans, they're killing more Iraqis. That's the last throes?

MR. McCLELLAN: Innocent -- I say innocent civilians. And it doesn't take a lot of people to cause mass damage when you're willing to strap a bomb onto yourself, get in a car and go and attack innocent civilians. That's the kind of people that we're dealing with. That's what I say when we're talking about a determined enemy.

Q Right. What is the evidence that the insurgency is in its last throes?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think I just explained to you the desperation of terrorists and their tactics.

Q What's the evidence on the ground that it's being extinguished?

MR. McCLELLAN: Terry, we're making great progress to defeat the terrorist and regime elements. You're seeing Iraqis now playing more of a role in addressing the security threats that they face. They're working side by side with our coalition forces. They're working on their own. There are a lot of special forces in Iraq that are taking the battle to the enemy in Iraq. And so this is a period when they are in a desperate mode.

Q Well, I'm just wondering what the metric is for measuring the defeat of the insurgency.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you can go back and look at the Vice President's remarks. I think he talked about it.

Q Yes. Is there any idea how long a last throe lasts for?

MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Steve.

Q These members of Congress have now introduced their resolution. What's your formal reaction to it?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, say that again.

Q These members of Congress have now introduced a resolution calling for a withdrawal by a date certain. What's your formal reaction --

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I think it's what I was talking about earlier. Let me make a couple of points. We all want our troops to return home soon. The best way to get our troops home and to honor them is to complete the mission in Iraq. That means continuing to train Iraqi forces so that they can take over all of the security of their own country and provide for their own defense. There are a lot of families here at home that want to see those troops come home. The President wants to see those troops come home. But it's important that we complete the mission because this is critical to winning the war on terrorism and defeating the terrorists.

Secondly, in terms of timetables, the President has often talked about timetables. Timetables simply send the wrong message. They send the wrong message to the terrorists, they send the wrong message to the Iraqi people, they send the wrong message to our troops who are serving admirably and working to complete an important mission.

The terrorists -- this message would say to the terrorists, all you have to do is wait until that day when our troops leave, and then you can start carrying out those attacks and just hold out. It's critical that we defeat the terrorists in Iraq. It would -- the Iraqi people have showed their determination to build a democratic and peaceful future. They have shown up in large numbers to vote for a free Iraq and to vote for a better future. And it's important that we stand with them as they work to build the institutions necessary for democracy and freedom to take hold.

A free Iraq is going to send a powerful message to a dangerous region of the world. Remember, this is a region where people came from that hijacked airplanes and flew them into buildings on September 11th. And we're fighting the enemy abroad so that we don't have to fight them here. This is about protecting the American people and ensuring our long-term security.

Q Scott, can I follow up on that?

MR. McCLELLAN: David, go ahead.

Q Scott, if I could turn you --

MR. McCLELLAN: Sure, in a minute.

Q Can I turn you for a moment to the Iran statement that the President issued earlier today. I'll read you three lines from it: "Iran's rulers denied more than 1,000 people who put themselves forward as candidates, including popular reformers and women who have done so much. The Iranian people deserve a genuinely democratic system in which elections are honest. They deserve freedom of assembly so Iranians can gather and press for any reform in a peaceful, loyal opposition that can keep the government in check." Scott, can you tell us, if we wanted to insert the word "Egypt" every place you had Iran, and "Egyptians" everyplace you had Iranians, would you consider that also a fair statement of the administration policy?

MR. McCLELLAN: A couple of things. First of all, just on the general statement, different circumstances require different strategies, and people are going to proceed at different -- at a different pace in different parts of the world. The President has said that in his remarks. You heard it in his inaugural address.

In terms of Iran, this is a message to the people of Iran. The President is saying that we stand with the people of Iran who seek greater freedom. You have an unelected few mullahs who are denying the people of Iran their rights. This is a country run by an unelected few who threw a thousand people off the ballot, including all the women who were seeking to run for office. This is a group of an unelected few that are denying the people their rights. They're denying freedom of press; they're denying freedom of assembly; they're denying rule of law; they're denying equal justice; they're denying religious freedom to the people of Iran. And we are going to stand with the people of Iran and the people elsewhere in the world who seek greater freedom.

In Egypt, the President has made it very clear that we appreciate the step that they are taking to have multi-candidate and multi-party presidential elections. That's an important step. And it's important that Egypt follow through on that commitment and have free and fair elections.

Iran is not having truly free and fair elections. This is something being driven by the unelected few.

Q Would you say, Scott, just to follow up on that, that the Iranian election that takes place tomorrow -- which does have at least some multiple candidates -- it clearly is not a form of Jeffersonian democracy -- but would you say that it is a more advanced democratic step than, say, an ally like Saudi Arabia has conducted in the past year?

MR. McCLELLAN: I would say what we've said on Iran, and you know what we've said on Saudi Arabia, too.

Q My point here is --

MR. McCLELLAN: Like I said, different countries are going to proceed at different -- at a different pace --

Q I understand that different countries --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- and we're going to be there to support them and urge them to continue moving forward. That's why Iraq is so important, because Iraq will help send an important message to the rest of the Middle East about freedom. All people, the President believes, want to live in freedom. And we are going to continue to stand with all those who want greater freedom. That -- advancing freedom and democracy is critical to peace and security for generations to come. And that's why we are standing with those different countries. We've pointed out when they've taken steps to move on the path of reform and we've also expressed our concerns when they have moved back, or not taken steps to move forward. And we will continue to make our views very clear to all leaders and countries and urge them to continue moving down a path of reform and freedom.

Q Understanding, Scott, that different countries move at different paces, at the same moment, do you find any internal contradiction in the fact that when some nations make a move toward democracy, as Egypt did, you praise them, and then the President steps out and says, look, even our own democracy didn't come together instantly. And yet, when other countries do that, you turn out a statement like today. How do you make that judgment?

MR. McCLELLAN: Like I said, David, and like I said at the beginning -- I think you're very well aware of this -- different circumstances around the world require different strategies and different approaches. The President talked about that in his inaugural address, and that's the way it was squared. It was squared in his inaugural address; you ought to go back and read it. Maybe you haven't had a chance to look at it recently.

Goyal.

Q Scott, on terrorism, back on the terrorism. Last week and this week, the President made great statements on defeating the terrorism around the globe. But this week, or today, according to press reports in Pakistan, a commander of Taliban said that Osama bin Laden was well and healthy and he's still our commander-in-chief and he's guiding us, and also Omar Mullah. So where do we stand now? Why --

MR. McCLELLAN: And your question was?

Q The question is, why can't we get these people when they're coming and making statements that Osama bin Laden is alive?

MR. McCLELLAN: As I've told you about before, those are two individuals we continue to pursue as part of our effort to win the war on terrorism.

Elaine, go ahead. Let me keep going because the President is going to be speaking here shortly, so I want to try to get around to others who have their hands up, as well.

Q Scott, on another topic, has the President or anyone else from the administration responded to the letter sent last month by Congressman John Conyers and signed by dozens of members of the House of Representatives, regarding the Downing Street memo? Has the President or anyone else responded?

MR. McCLELLAN: Not that I'm aware of.

Q Why not?

MR. McCLELLAN: Why not? Because I think that this is an individual who voted against the war in the first place and is simply trying to rehash old debates that have already been addressed. And our focus is not on the past. It's on the future and working to make sure we succeed in Iraq.

These matters have been addressed, Elaine. I think you know that very well. The press --

Q Scott, 88 members of Congress signed that letter.

MR. McCLELLAN: The press -- the press have covered it, as well.

Q What do you say about them?

Q But, Scott, don't they deserve the courtesy of a response back?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, this has been addressed. Go ahead.

Q Scott, some people are interpreting the President's heightened focus on the economy in general as signaling a retreat on Social Security, which had been identified as his top domestic priority. Is that an accurate characterization? And he's not -- does the President have any new ideas for sort of resolving what seems like --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, in fact, we're continuing to work closely with members of Congress to move forward on saving and strengthening Social Security. This is one of the big priorities. This is an important part of long-term economic security, because this system is headed toward bankruptcy. And it's important that we save it for future generations.

Nothing is going to change for today's seniors. It's important that we fix that hole in the safety net. The hole in the safety net is that it's not going to be around for younger generations. That's why we want to move forward on legislation that will not only make Social Security permanently sound, but also provide personal accounts.

And you have now seen over the last few weeks a few Democrats start to break with the Democratic leadership and say, yes, we ought to be putting forward ideas. The President has encouraged people to come forward with ideas so that we can talk about how we can work together to get legislation passed this year. This is a high priority. This is something we should not pass on to future generations, and the President is continuing to work with members of Congress. You have both the House and the Senate that are now moving forward in committees to address this issue, and we appreciate those efforts.

You have a former President, President Clinton, who has told Democrats that they ought to come forward with ideas and solutions, instead of simply saying, no. No is not an agenda. No does not help solve problems. It's time to put forward solutions and ideas and quit trying to block progress on an important priority.

Q So why the public de-emphasizing of Social Security and the sort of -- what seems to be a substitution --

MR. McCLELLAN: That would be wrong to assume that. I'm sorry if you got that impression somehow from news stories or anywhere else, because that would be a wrong impression. The President next week is going to be participating in a conversation on Social Security. He's going to continue pushing for strengthening Social Security. This is an important part of retirement security. Retirement security is critical to economic security.

Q Setting aside the congressional resolution and Mr. Conyers, et cetera, and focusing specifically on the President's upcoming public statements, from the outset, after 9/11, he was reassuring, or saying that the nation had to avoid complacency and impatience. If these are public statements, what is he doing, other than reassuring the public not to be complacent and patient, what's going to be happening beyond just that rhetoric?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, I don't know that I'd necessarily make the connection that you're drawing.

Q What else is the President planning to do if --

MR. McCLELLAN: It's just what I said, he's going to --

Q -- if this -- it sounds -- it sounds as though --

MR. McCLELLAN: In terms --

Q -- one can cut through a lot of this and come to the conclusion that the President is addressing a public opinion issue and dealing strictly with public statements, something that he said from the outset was going to be a problem, complacency and impatience.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think -- I mean, you're asking about -- now you're asking about one part of what his focus is going to be in the coming weeks in public events. Iraq, I believe, I mean, I think you're talking about Iraq specifically.

Q Yes.

MR. McCLELLAN: The President recognizes that this is a concern that's on the minds of the American people, and that's why he's going to sharpen his focus, spending more time talking about the progress that's being made on the ground -- there is significant progress that has been made in a short period of time -- the dangers that remain and that lie ahead, as well as our strategy for victory in Iraq. It's important to keep the American people informed. It's important to note some of the progress that has been made. That's why the President will be giving remarks on June 28th to update the American people about where things are in Iraq, and the way forward in Iraq. That marks the one-year anniversary since the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi people. That's an important date, because a lot of important progress has been made in that time.

We also have the constitutional timetable set for August 15th in Iraq. The Iraqi government is reaching out and trying to be inclusive, and said that they are committed to meeting that timetable of August 15th.

So these are important events and milestones that provide a good opportunity to talk about the situation in Iraq and to update the American people about how we are moving forward to succeed.

Q So are you suggesting, then, that the current concerns of the American people are because they are either uninformed or misinformed about the situation in Iraq and the President is going to try to correct them?

MR. McCLELLAN: Look, we have scores of troops in harm's way in Iraq. We have families here at home that are making tremendous sacrifices. Everybody wants to see the troops return home sooner than later. But the way to returning home is to complete the mission. That's the way to honor their service and sacrifice. And so it's simply what I was saying. This is a top concern for the American people. It's a top priority for the President of the United States. And he's just sharpening his focus on that important priority, along with the economic priority, economic priorities, that have always been at the top of his agenda.

Go ahead.

Q On the economic priorities, obviously people are concerned about gas prices, and -- but I think that there is a sort of broader sense of unease about the economy with the American people. Is there anything you can do, either to address gas prices directly -- anything more you can do to address gas prices directly, or to address the broader unease that people feel?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President talked about it again yesterday in his remarks; he'll be talking about the need for a comprehensive energy strategy next week, as well, at an event where he talks about the economy.

The President put forward a plan four years ago. Four years is long enough to wait. It's time for the Congress to act and get it passed. Now, they're moving forward, and we're hopeful that they're going to be able to come together, work out any differences, and get it to the President before they recess in August.

It's important that we get that passed. The President has talked about what we can do now. We need to make sure there's no price gouging, we need to making sure that there are affordable and abundant supplies of energy on the market to address the demand that is out there and to keep our economies growing. And so he's talked about what we can do short-term.

There's not -- as he said, this is not going to be -- we didn't get into this overnight, we're not going to solve it overnight, but we need to address the root causes of high energy prices. And that's what the President is working to do. And Congress is moving forward. That's an important initiative that they're making some significant progress on.

Sarah.

Q Thank you. Scott, Senator Durbin compares the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo with the way Nazis abused prisoners during World War II. How is the President reacting to these accusations?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think the Senator's remarks are reprehensible. It's a real disservice to our men and women in uniform who adhere to high standards and uphold our values and our laws. To compare the way our military treats detainees with the Soviet gulags, the Nazi concentration camps, and Pol Pot's regime is simply reprehensible. And to suggest that these individuals -- I notice comments were made that -- comparing it to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. To suggest that these enemy combatants who are detained at Guantanamo Bay should be released just is simply beyond belief to me. These are dangerous individuals who were picked up on the battlefield. They were picked up on the battlefield in the fight against American forces. They were picked up on the battlefield because they are individuals who are involved in plots to do harm to the American people and to innocent civilians.

And so I just think those remarks are reprehensible and they are a real disservice to our men and women in uniform. Our men and women in uniform go out of their way to treat detainees humanely, and they go out of their way to hold the values and the laws that we hold so dear in this country. And when you talk about the gulags and the concentration camps in Pol Pot's regime, millions of people, innocent people, were killed by those regimes.

Q Scott, recent economic data suggests that the spike in gas prices really isn't as big a drag on the economy as you seem to think it is. People are still traveling, vacations are up, and the economy is kind of booming. And I've seen reports that income is outstripping gas prices, so that's why people are still driving their SUVs around like maniacs. Who's telling you that it's a drag on the economy?

MR. McCLELLAN: We need to have you talk to some of your colleagues in this room a little bit more. What we've said is that --

Q But where are you getting your pessimistic --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- that high gas prices are a headwind for a growing economy, they're a drag on our growing economy. There are families and small businesses that are affected by any small jump in gas prices. And those are families and small businesses that are trying to make ends meet, or trying to make sure that they're providing for their family. So it can have an effect. I think it is a concern for Americans, and it's one of some other concerns about the economy, as well.

The economy is in a strong expansion right now. The facts point that out. I mean, you had unemployment insurance claims come out again today, and the four-week average continues to be consistent with solid economic growth and job creation. So there are a lot of positive signs about the economy. But we also have to recognize that there are some concerns out there, and that there's more that needs to be done. That's why the President has put forward additional pro-growth policies, to get Congress to act and keep our economy growing stronger. That's why an energy plan is so important. That's why passing Social Security reform is so important. That's why moving forward on CAFTA is so important. That's why moving forward on appropriations bills that stick within the budget that the President outlined and keep us on track to cut the deficit are so important.

April.

Q Scott, on John Conyers, John Conyers is walking here with that letter again, as you have acknowledged from Elaine's comment. But 88 leaders on Capitol Hill signed that letter. Now, I understand what you're saying about him, but what about the other 88 who signed this letter, wanting information, answers to these five questions?

MR. McCLELLAN: How did they vote on the war -- the decision to go to war in Iraq?

Q Well, you have two -- well, if that's the case, you have two Republicans who are looking for a timetable. How do you justify that?

MR. McCLELLAN: I already talked about that.

Q I understand, but let's talk about this.

MR. McCLELLAN: Like I said --

Q Well, just because -- I understand -- but wait a minute, that's not -- if leaders from Congress -- if you're talking about unifying and asking for everyone to come together, why not answer, whether they wanted the war or not, answer a letter where John Conyers wrote to the President and then 88 congressional leaders signed? Why not answer that?

MR. McCLELLAN: For the reasons I stated earlier. This is simply rehashing old debates that have already been discussed.

Q What is it that the President can tell the American people in terms of progress on the ground in Iraq that can help reverse what we've see in public opinion polls in the last month, a majority, for the first time, saying that it's not --

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know it's necessarily the President, but anybody in the administration, as well -- the Secretary of Defense, our commanders on the ground, the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff are continuing to update the American people about the progress being made on the security front. The President will also talk to them about the progress being made on the political front. There's a lot of progress. But he'll also talk about the difficulties and dangers that remain, that we continue to face.

In terms of the strategy, I think that it's important always to keep the American people informed about what our strategy is for success in Iraq. And it's always important, particularly when we have so many troops in harm's way, to make sure the American people are updated and kept apprised of the situation on the ground, and what we're working to accomplish and our strategy for achieving that important mission.

Q Scott, I just have one question today. Sarah asked mine. Maryland's Republican Congressman Wayne Gilchrest has announced that same-sex marriage between two homosexual men is, in his words, "perfectly normal." So he's joining three other Republicans and 81 Democrats in a bill to end "don't ask, don't tell." And my question: Surely, the President believes this is too serious for you to evade my question as to what is the President's reaction to this?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President has made clear that he supports the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. It's up to our military leaders to determine the best way to implement that policy. He's also made his views very well-known when it comes to the sanctity of marriage. The President believes we ought to protect and defend the sanctity of marriage; it's a sacred institution.

And, thank you. The President is beginning his remarks.