|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 20, 2005
Press Briefing by Scott McClellan
James S. Brady Briefing Room
3:18 P.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon, everybody. The President was pleased to welcome European Union Council President Juncker and Commission President Barroso and High Representative Solana to the White House today. They had a very good discussion about our relationship between Europe and the United States. This was an opportunity to talk about how we can continue to work in partnership to spread freedom and democracy, advance prosperity and strengthen our common security, as well. And you all had a readout from them earlier today at their press availability -- I'm here to take whatever other questions you have on the day.
Q Have you released all the information and documents on Bolton that you're going to release at this point?
MR. McCLELLAN: I appreciate the question, Steve. The President, first of all, as you heard him say, believes that John Bolton should have an up or down vote on the floor of the United States Senate. The Senate is moving forward this evening on the nomination. John Bolton is someone who has the support of a majority of the United States Senate. We have important work at the United Nations that we're working to accomplish. The American people want to see the United Nations reformed and become a more effective organization. We have put forward proposals for moving forward for on comprehensive reform, and it's important that we get our ambassador in place so that he can help advance reform at the United Nations and make it work more effectively.
In terms of the efforts with the United States Senate, I think it's become very clear that the Democratic leadership is not interested in more information -- all they're interested in is simply blocking his nomination and obstructing progress on reform at the United Nations, because John Bolton is the one who will be leading our efforts to move forward on reform at the United Nations.
Senator Roberts last week came forward with a very reasonable compromise, put it to the Democratic leadership -- particularly the ones who have already voted against John Bolton, but said that they wanted additional information. Senator Roberts provided them with additional information, but it appears that the Democrats want to keep expanding the universe and moving the goalpost. They're just simply not interested in more information; they're interested in simply stalling this nomination. This is a very important position and it's time for John Bolton to receive an up or down vote on the floor of the Senate.
I would also point out that the initial information that Democrats said they were concerned about were certain classified, highly classified intercepts. And that information was provided to the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, that's the appropriate channel to provide that information. Senator Rockefeller, himself, was able to see that information. He provided a letter to the Foreign Relations Committee, which was hearing the Bolton confirmation. And Senator Rockefeller, himself, said there was nothing improper about these requests. We would hope that there are some Democrats -- additional Democrats that recognize that there has been a reasonable effort made to accommodate some of the concerns and allow this vote to go forward on the floor of the United States Senate.
Q What is the answer to Steve's question? I mean, Steve asked you whether there would be any more documents released. What have you decided?
MR. McCLELLAN: We continue to work in good faith to address any concerns, but it's clear that the Democratic leadership isn't interested in more information; they're only interested in blocking his nomination.
Q So you won't be releasing any more documents?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there has been more information that has been provided to the Democratic leadership, and now yet again they move the goal post, Bill.
Q They continue to ask for more. So the question is --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, they continue to expand the universe of their request for information.
Q All right. So the question is, have you concluded that it's fruitless to offer them any more --
MR. McCLELLAN: And I think -- what I'm trying to tell you is, obviously, we stay in contact with members of Congress all the time, and we have continued to work in good faith to address those concerns, but it's becoming clear that all they want to do is keep moving the ball.
Q So no more.
Q But you haven't ruled out giving them more?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think I just answered your question.
Go ahead, Jessica.
Q Scott, today the President said that he sees progress in Iraq, and that the strategy is working. But William Webster, Major General on the ground there, has said the U.S. is not even close to breaking the back of the insurgents, and Hagel and McCain have both accused the White House of misleading the American public about the status of the war. What's the evidence --
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think that's exactly what they said.
Q That's not the exact quote, but that's the implication, that they're losing, not winning --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think Senator McCain talked about the importance of not cutting and running, and the importance of completing the mission.
Q He said, specifically, that time and again we've been told that we're facing a turning point, and people should be told that this is hard, this is long, and it's going to be tough and take years.
MR. McCLELLAN: And maybe you haven't been following the President lately, but he's talked about -- he's continued to update the American people about the progress that we're making in Iraq. He's continued to talk about the dangers and difficulties that exist on the ground and the dangers and difficulties that remain. The President has talked about how democracy is hard; it takes time to build a democracy and for it to take hold. The President has talked about the importance of continuing to train and equip the Iraqi security forces. So I think the President has continually kept the American people informed about the progress we're making, as well as the dangers that remain. And he's also talked about our strategy for moving forward.
Now, it's important to continue to keep the American people updated. This is, as you heard the President say earlier, something that he thinks about every single day and is focused on every single day because we do have troops in harm's way, and all of us want to see those troops come home. The way to bring those troops home is to complete the mission. And part of completing that mission is training and equipping Iraqi security forces so that they can provide for their own defense, and they can address the security threats that they face in the future themselves. And that's exactly what we are working to do.
Now, it's really a two-track strategy. The first part of it is staying on the offensive militarily and working with Iraqi forces. The second part of it is continuing to support the Iraqi people as they move forward on the political front. The Iraqi people time and again have defied the terrorists and defied those regime elements who want to derail the transition to democracy. Every step of the way they have shown that they are committed to a democratic future. From just about a year ago when sovereignty was transferred, they established an interim government, they drafted a transitional law, they held free elections, where eight and a half million voters showed up. And they're moving forward on drafting a constitution now, so we have --
Q But what accounts for the --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- great optimism in the Iraqi people to continue moving forward on the political front and meeting their political objectives. That's an important part of defeating the terrorists who recognize that this is the central front in the war on terrorism.
Q Hagel specifically said that the President is disconnected from reality on Iraq.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let me just say, first, that the President gets his information from the commanders and generals who are on the ground in Iraq, and he is fully confident that those leaders are firmly rooted in reality. He is regularly updated by his commanders and his generals on the ground; as he indicated earlier today, he spoke with General Abizaid; he's going to be talking with General Casey later this week. He is regularly kept up to date on the progress being made on the ground by his commanders, and they're the ones who have the best sense of what is happening on the ground and the progress that's being made.
We're also making important progress to train and equip the Iraqi security forces so that they can defend their country. There are now some 168,000 Iraqi forces that have been trained and equipped. Now, there's different levels of readiness, and the Department of Defense can talk to you about their levels of readiness when it comes to that. Some have been performing better than others, and we are working to address areas where there might be shortcomings. But they continue to get better each week. And once they are fully capable of defending themselves, then our troops can return home with the honor that they deserve.
And as I said, the President is optimistic about the Iraqi people continuing to move forward on democracy, because time and again, they have shown their commitment to doing so. And they have defied the skeptics and they have defied the terrorists. But he recognizes the tremendous sacrifices being made by our troops, and he recognizes the sacrifices being made by their families here at home. And as he said, the best way to honor their service and sacrifice is to complete this important mission. A free Iraq will be a powerful force for change in a very dangerous region of the world, a region where we had hijackers come from that killed some 3,000 innocent Americans. This is a central front in the war on terrorism. The terrorists have made it so, and it's important that we succeed in Iraq. And I think the American people understand that, regardless of where they stood, prior to the decision to go into Iraq.
Q In the event that the President doesn't get his up or down vote on Mr. Bolton, is he likely to consider a recess appointment?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President is continuing to urge the Senate to move forward on a up or down vote. That's what we're urging.
Q Can I ask you to look ahead to tomorrow a bit, with the Vietnamese Prime Minister's visit? There are some who are expressing concern about his visit, in light of the President certainly promoting democracy elsewhere in the world. Could you speak to the historic nature of the visit, and will he be putting any specific pressure on the Prime Minister about human rights and other reforms there?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, and as he does with any leader, this is a historic visit as you pointed out. The President looks forward to welcoming the Prime Minister to the White House tomorrow. It was -- this occasion marks the 10th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties with Vietnam, and it's really an opportunity to review the strong progress we've made in our bilateral relationship and explore ways to develop a constructive partnership for the future.
And so they -- the two leaders will use this opportunity to seek to really deepen our joint efforts to achieve the fullest possible accounting for Americans who remain missing from the Vietnam war. They will also use this as an opportunity to work to address religious freedom and human rights concerns. The United States strongly supports Vietnam's integration into the world economic community and its bid to join the World Trade Organization.
So the President and Prime Minister will have a chance to review the substantial progress that has been made in the latest round of bilateral accession negotiations and discussions and look at ways to intensify that process. So they're -- and there are other issues that they'll discuss, as well. But, yes, this will be an opportunity to talk about religious freedom and human rights concerns, as well. There are some steps that have been taken by Vietnam, but there are concerns that remain.
Q If your characterization of what the Democrats are trying to do on Bolton is correct -- namely, that they're just going to block this no matter what -- what does that say from the White House's perspective about the rest of the President's agenda this year? And what would it say, in particular, about the possibility of a Supreme Court nomination?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let's look at the facts. It's not just me saying it, but let's look at the facts. You had a Senate leader go to the floor last week, after checking with the Director of National Intelligence on all the names that the Democrats had said they had concerns about. He checked with the Director of National Intelligence, said, were any of these names part of these intercepts, and he was told, no, and he provided that information back to the Democratic leadership. Yet then they come up and have another excuse -- say, well, that's not good enough. So I think it's clear that all they're doing is trying to block this nomination from going forward at this point, the Democratic leadership.
Q But I guess the question is what --
MR. McCLELLAN: Now in terms of other issues, and in terms of the agenda, we've got a lot of important work to do for the American people, and the President is going to continue reaching out to members who are committed to getting things done on behalf of the American people. We are making progress on comprehensive energy legislation. The House has acted, the Senate is moving forward this week on comprehensive energy legislation. There are good signs regarding the free trade agreement with the Central American nations and the Dominican Republic. We continue to work that issue. It is an important free trade agreement. The Congress is moving forward on appropriations bills. So we will continue working with all those who want to get things done.
But I think what the Bolton nomination and the blocking of it shows us -- it's just very unfortunate. Right on the heels of an agreement reached on judicial nominees that showed a spirit of bipartisanship and a goodwill gesture on behalf of Republicans and Democrats alike, now the Democratic leaders just said, we're going to throw that out the door, instead of building upon that spirit of goodwill. And we hope that members of Congress will step back, Democratic leaders, and recognize that we were elected to get things done, to put aside partisan differences, and focus on ways we can work together to accomplish big priorities for the American people. And that's what the President will continue doing.
Q Has the President given up on working with the Democratic leadership in the Senate?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there are a number -- I think that there are Democrats outside the leadership that recognize the importance of working together to get things done, and that's why we'll continue reaching out to those Democrats who want to get things done. But the American people are tired of the partisan bickering and the obstructionist tactics that have been employed by the Democratic leadership. I think the American people expect better, and we hope that they will get it.
Q I actually had a question on another topic, but to follow up on Dick -- first of all, I think Senator Roberts offered seven names, and the Democrats were asking for, like, 36 names.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, remember the initial request was five, Dana. And then Senator Roberts, not knowing what names what they were talking about, did something that made a lot of sense, he went and looked at the Democrat minority report, and he took every name that was in that report -- there were seven altogether -- and went to the Director of National Intelligence and said, are any of these part of these intercepts. And he was told no.
Q But they say that they want and need this information and that after that, that the nomination will go through, the votes are there, they admit that. You say, no, you're not going to get it. Why is it that it's the Democrats who are ruining the spirit of bipartisanship --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, look at the facts.
Q -- and why isn't it that the White House -- I mean, you're at a complete stalemate here, why isn't --
MR. McCLELLAN: Dana, what I just pointed out -- have you pointed out to viewers that Senator Rockefeller, himself, got to look at this information and said that there is nothing improper about this request?
Q I think he --
MR. McCLELLAN: Have you pointed out that Senator Roberts went forward and looked at all the seven names that concerns have been raised about, checked them with the Director of National Intelligence and none of them were part of those intercepts? I think -- I'll trust the American people, because I think when they know the facts, they can judge it for themselves.
Q Okay, one other quick --
MR. McCLELLAN: Sure.
Q Porter Goss said in Time Magazine that he has an excellent idea where Osama bin Laden is, and that perhaps the problem is that sanctuaries -- that sovereign nations are giving sanctuary to Osama bin Laden. First of all, does the President have an excellent idea of where he is? And --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think what -- okay, go ahead, I'm sorry, finish your question.
Q And then the second question is, -- is he complaining about -- it sounds like he's complaining about Pakistan.
MR. McCLELLAN: I think what the Director is referring to was that he has an excellent idea of what area he may be in. If we knew exactly where Osama bin Laden was, we would go get him. I can assure you of that.
In terms of the cooperation with Pakistan, we have good cooperation with Pakistan in the global war on terrorism. We appreciate all that they're doing to help us track down al Qaeda leaders and Taliban remnants, particularly along that border region with Afghanistan. And so we appreciate the work that they're doing.
Q So do you share his concern that perhaps sovereign nations are giving him sanctuary?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I'll let him talk more if he wants to expand on that.
Go ahead -- Goyal, you're up.
Q Scott, two questions. One, in (inaudible), the President today at the press conference questioned my (inaudible) question that at the naval base in Cuba, where we have all these prisoners, or I should call them terrorists, when we release them, that they come back on the street. That's what my question is. Also, always I've been saying that many of them have been released but they come back on the streets and kill again, and all the same people, like -- dozens of them were sent back to Pakistan, but they came back on the streets. That's what --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think it's a real concern --
Q Well, why are you releasing them? And also, at the time, why don't we treat them the way they have treated innocent people -- killed thousands of them, millions are living in fear today.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, because -- the reason we treat them the way we do is because the United States stands for some very important values, and we believe in upholding our laws and setting -- sending a clear message to the rest of the world that not only do we work to promote freedom and democracy and rule of law, but we uphold it here at home. And our men and women in the military do an outstanding job adhering to those standards and those values and those laws, and we appreciate the job that they do.
In terms of what you're referencing, I think that our belief is that about a dozen or so detainees that have been released from Guantanamo Bay have actually returned to the battlefield, and we've either recaptured them or otherwise dealt with them, namely killing them on the battlefield when they were again attacking our forces. And so it is an issue that we're always looking at. The reason people are at Guantanamo Bay is because they are dangerous individuals. And so we're always looking at their disposition and how to deal with them through the legal process. There are, as the President pointed out, I think there are some 800 initially or so, he said, and now we're down to 500-plus. A number of them have been returned to their country of origin, after we have received assurances that they would look after those individuals.
But we're always looking at how to deal with the detainees that are there, but they are there for a reason, because they have been involved in attacking United States or coalition forces or they otherwise seek to do harm to the American people. And we must always take a careful look at that.
Q At his news conference a little while ago, the President suggested that he was waiting on the courts to make a determination as to the legal status as to where these individuals should be tried, civil versus military tribunals. Can you give us some sort of a status report in terms of what the administration's process is right now for seeking and obtaining some sort of a definitive legal status definition that might expedite the handling of these detainees?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the latest -- let me back up. The Department of Defense has worked through the interagency process, with the lead being the National Security Council, in terms of establishing the appropriate procedures for dealing with the detainees. And these are procedures that really go beyond what even the Geneva Conventions require. And they include the combatant status review tribunals, to confirm that each individual is, indeed, an enemy combatant, and every detainee at Guantanamo Bay has had such a hearing.
There are also administrative review boards that assess the remaining potential threat and intelligence value that each detainee has, and they are regularly looking at those detainees and evaluating whether or not they can be released. And then, of course, we went and set up the military commissions, where these detainees would have full and vigorous representation by defense counsel for those who were suspected of committing war crimes. Now the courts have ruled regarding military commissions, and those commissions have temporarily been suspended, pending further review by the federal courts. And that's where it stands at this point.
Q Other than that, is there some new urgency or some new approach to the thinking on this that is related to the din of, close Gitmo, versus, resolve their status? Can you describe any --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, in terms -- I mean, I think in terms of Guantanamo Bay and the necessity for it, we've addressed that over the last couple of weeks in questions -- whether it's the Vice President or Secretary Rumsfeld or the President, himself -- we've addressed those issues. And no one has come forward with a better alternative. But these are dangerous individuals, and we want to make sure that they are not released where they can again do harm to the American people.
Q Ralph Regula, the Chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees funding for the Corporation of Public Broadcasting, and himself a longtime supporter of tax dollars for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, said that funding for this corporation had to be terminated because of deficit concerns this year. And on June 9th, his subcommittee voted to cut out all funding for the CPB, and then those cuts were restored by the full committee. Does the President support ending government funding for public broadcasting?
MR. McCLELLAN: What we have done in our budget, I believe, and I'll go -- and I'll have to go back and double check, but I believe we've provided level funding in the current budget. We do have concerns about the deficit, and we need to keep our budget on track to -- keep our economy growing and keep the budget on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009. And that's why we outlined a very responsible budget that held the line on spending elsewhere.
But what we did for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, I believe, was level fund it, and I'll double check that to make sure.
Q So you're saying you disagree with Chairman Regula, that there should be some sort of funding for public broadcasting?
MR. McCLELLAN: You can go and look at our budget, because it spells out -- spells it out in the budget.
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me go over here. I'll come back to you, Les. Go ahead.
Q Scott, Kim Jong-il, in his four-hour meeting with the South Korean communication minister indicated that if there were normalization relations with the United States, he would, A, get rid of the nuclear program and, B, get rid of the long-range and the medium-range missiles -- that is, the Nodongs and the Taepo Dongs. Do you see in that any contours of a possible agreement if that could be reached and if it could be verified?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there's a process that has been set up to address these issues. It's the six-party talks where all parties in the region have joined with the United States and sent a very clear message to North Korea that we want a nuclear-free peninsula. And there have been some indications that North Korea wants to return to the talks, but they so far have not set a date. We need to see a date.
And in terms of what you're bringing up, we outlined a proposal to resolve this matter. But the first thing that has to happen is for North Korea to make a strategic decision that they are going to abandon and dismantle their nuclear weapons programs. That's what all parties in the region want to see happen.
Now, that proposal offers them a way to realize better relations with the international community if they make that strategic decision. And it outlines some very practical steps for moving forward. So what we would like to see is for North Korea to return to the six-party talks as soon as possible and without precondition. There are no preconditions for returning to the talks, but the decision is for North Korea to make, that they are willing to abandon their nuclear weapons ambitions.
Q Kim Jong-il also indicated that talks could begin as early as July, in his discussions with the communication minister. Would that be feasible?
MR. McCLELLAN: We will see. They have yet to give us a date, and it's important to get a date and a willingness not only to come back to the talks, but a willingness to move forward in a substantive way on the proposal that we put on the table.
Q In the news conference just now, the President was asked about the Vice President's assertion that the insurgency is in its final throes. He was asked if he agreed, and he didn't say anything about it. We went around on this last week, with you, and you didn't endorse that. Is it now the administration's view the Vice President went too far in saying that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let's talk -- I mean, I think you should look at the context of what the Vice President was saying.
Q It's not that -- just those two words --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, not at all.
Q -- are you still behind it?
MR. McCLELLAN: In fact, he was referring to how some Zarqawi lieutenants have been captured in Iraq. There's been great progress made in going after the al Qaeda network in Iraq. Just last week our military announced the capture of another top Zarqawi lieutenant, the head of operations in Mosul, a very dangerous individual who was responsible for a lot of death and destruction in Iraq. And so we're continuing to make progress against what is a determined enemy.
Q So is that the last throes? I mean, do you agree with what the Vice President said?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let me tell you where things are. The terrorists and the regime elements are desperate. They are going to be defeated. They have no vision to offer. They have no alternative to offer, other than destruction and chaos and killing of innocent civilians. And they have shown that they are not able to stop the progress on the political front. The Iraqi people time and again have defied their desire to stop them from advancing on democracy.
Q I'm just asking if those two words -- so you're standing behind what the Vice President said?
MR. McCLELLAN: Hold on, and I'm talking -- and look at what the context of what the Vice President said, because you didn't point out everything that he said.
Q When the President at the briefing said that he's getting an assessment as to how we're proceeding in Iraq, is that a new and different kind of assessment? Or is this just part of the ongoing assessment that --
MR. McCLELLAN: It's something he's always been getting for quite some time. He, on a weekly basis, participates in the National Security Council meeting on Iraq where he -- where Generals Abizaid and Casey participate on those, as well. So that's what I was pointing to earlier when I said that they are the ones who are updating him on the progress on the ground, and they're in the best position to make those assessments.
And as I said, those are assessments that are firmly rooted in reality. They are the commanders on the ground that are seeing the progress being made to train and equip Iraqi forces. They're also seeing the dangers that remain and the difficulties ahead. And they're also seeing the progress that's being made on the political front, as well.
Q So there's no change, then, in the way -- in his involvement? These are just part of the ongoing briefing --
MR. McCLELLAN: It's not just weekly. It's regular updates from his commanders on the ground, also updates from his Secretary of Defense. This is something he is regularly updated on and getting assessments from those who are in the best position to determine the progress being made.
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Les.
Q Senator Hagel is quoted by U.S. News & World Report as saying, "Things aren't getting better; they're getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality. The reality is we're losing in Iraq."
And my first question: Would you deny that Al Jazeera loves such statements by Republican senators and Senator Durbin?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think I already addressed this comment in an earlier question.
Q Yes, I know but -- Senator John McCain, who is another Republican, said on network television: "Too often we've been told and the American people have been told that we're at a turning point, what the American people should have been told is that it's a long -- it's hard, it's tough."
And my question: Does the President suspect that Senator McCain is angling for another "he may run with a Democrat" national rumor, possibly with Joe Biden?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think Senator McCain has addressed those questions.
Go ahead, Bob.
Q All right, Scott. At their joint news conference, both President Bush and Prime Minister Blair denied the major assumptions out of the so-called Downing Street memo. We've had other revelations, I guess, since then. But is the President wondering how the intelligence operatives and diplomatic operatives of the key ally in this mission came to these assumptions, came to these conclusions? Isn't he wondering how this happened?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think Prime Minister Blair addressed this very issue. They were memos relating to the United Kingdom and he addressed the issue in a news conference.
Go ahead, Ken.
Q Senator Cornyn today endorsed Governor Perry for reelection, called him a tremendous leader for Texas, who deserves reelection in 2006. I know the administration generally supports Republican incumbents. Will this White House be getting involved in the Texas gubernatorial race?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, the President will not be getting involved in the primary.
And let me just say that he considers both friends.
Q As do you, I'm sure. (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: I consider one mother. (Laughter.)
Q Going back to Senator Chuck Hagel's remarks, which Les referenced, we also have Senators Lindsey Graham, Lincoln Chafee, McCain, as well as others in the Democratic Party, more and more expressing concern about Iraq. Representative Walter Jones getting together with Democrats to call for some kind of a withdrawal. It seems as though the pressure on the administration is building from Republicans who have concerns that the view from the White House doesn't match the view from others on the ground. Is it time for the White House to look at how it's talking with Republicans in Congress, and to get them back on board?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think the commanders on the ground also brief Congress periodically on developments on the ground. So are you saying that that's not what's happening on the ground, the assessments that they're providing?
Q I'm saying that the --
MR. McCLELLAN: Are you questioning the commanders on the ground?
Q I'm not. I didn't mention that at all. What I was saying was --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's where the President gets his briefings from.
Q What I was saying was that the senators seem to be seeing a very different view on the ground, perhaps from their briefings from the commanders, than the interpretation that the administration is putting on those briefings.
MR. McCLELLAN: And what is the interpretation that the administration is putting on?
Q The interpretation the administration is putting on is that things are going fairly well, that training is proceeding at pace with Iraqis, which is not what the other senators are saying, and that the view is far more optimistic in the short-term than the views of these senators.
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me correct you, and let me tell you what the interpretation of the administration is, because it's based on the assessment of the commanders on the ground in Iraq. And the President talked about this in his radio address. He pointed out how some people may disagree about the decision to go into Iraq, but we can all recognize that Iraq is now a central front in the war on terrorism. And he talked about how a free Iraq will be a powerful force for changing a dangerous region in the world.
And we are facing a determined enemy. The stakes are high in Iraq. They recognize how high the stakes are, and so do we. We're fighting them in Iraq so that we don't have to fight them here at home. The terrorists are not going to be able to defeat us or defeat the Iraqi people. The Iraqi people have shown that they will not be -- they have shown that they are determined to defy the terrorists, and that they're not going to let the terrorists win. They can't defeat the coalition forces; all they can do is simply try to shake our will and to weaken our resolve, as the President pointed out. And they cannot. That's why it's so important that -- I mean, all they want us to do is to retreat, and not complete the mission. That's why it's so important that we continue to move ahead and succeed in Iraq, and that's what we're working to do.
And the President constantly talks to the American people about the progress that's being made, and he also talks about the determined enemy that we're facing, and how high these stakes are in Iraq. And it's important that we continue to support the Iraqi people, who time and again have defied the skeptics and defied the terrorists, and said we are going to live in freedom.
Q So is the enemy both determined and in its last throes, at the same time?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think I addressed that question earlier.
Q Scott, just for the record, following up on the bin Laden question, is the Bush doctrine -- you're either for us or against us -- still in effect?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the President has made those views very clear.
Q Can we conclude then that we are -- the U.S. is receiving 100 percent cooperation from the country or countries that Porter Goss believes bin Laden is hiding in?
MR. McCLELLAN: We are receiving good cooperation from the government of Pakistan. They are a partner in the global war on terrorism, and they have been working with us to go after al Qaeda and Taliban remnants. They understand the importance of staying on the offensive and going after the terrorists to disrupt plots and prevent them from carrying out the attacks.
President Musharraf recognizes the importance of going after those terrorists and bringing them to justice before they can do harm. So we appreciate the work that the government of Pakistan is doing to partner with us in the global war on terrorism.
Go ahead, Paula.
Q Scott, was the two-month delay in the tax reform panel recommendations due primarily to Social Security not being as far along as he would like?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I wouldn't describe it that way. I'd say a couple of things about it. There are a number of important priorities that we have on the agenda right now before Congress, and that we are working to make important progress on. We are focused on passing comprehensive energy legislation. There is good progress being made. We want to get that done before the August recess, so the President can sign it into law. It's legislation that has waited long enough to be passed, and we're hopeful that it will be passed now. We're also working to make progress on the Central American Free Trade Agreement, a very important free trade agreement. We're working to move forward on a responsible piece of highway legislation. We're moving forward on the appropriations bill. And we are also moving forward on saving and strengthening Social Security. There are hearings that are taking place -- Congress is working to address this.
Tax reform is a high priority for this President. The tax code is a complicated mess and he wants to see it reformed and make it -- to make it simpler and fairer and to ensure that it's a code that encourages job creation and economic growth. And it's an issue that deserves the kind of attention that is merited with something that is this important. And that's why we suggested to the tax reform panel that they continue their work for another couple of months, and they accepted that recommendation. And the President extended it. And we look forward to focusing on that once their work is complete in September.
Q Thank you.
MR. McCLELLAN: Thank you.
END 3:54 P.M. EDT