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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 14, 2005

Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Indianapolis, Indiana

11:55 A.M. EDT

MR. McCLELLAN: All right. The President had his usual briefings before we left. We are going to Indiana, for the Black Corporate Expo. And in his remarks, the President -- I touched on this a little bit -- will focus on making sure all Americans can realize the promise of America, he'll talk about the importance of expanding opportunity and prosperity and making it within reach of all Americans, and what we're doing to help meet that important national goal.

The President will talk about the education reforms that we've implemented to make sure every child is learning. We're making important progress when it comes to educating our children. And the President will talk about the nation's report card, the NAEP, that is being released today. It's the first long-term assessment, national assessment to be released since the No Child Left Behind reforms went into place. This covers the years '99 through 2004, and it shows some significant improvements, particularly among minority groups. And the President will touch on that in his remarks, and talk about how we're working to close the achievement gap, so that everybody has the chance to have a first-rate education.

And the President will also talk about his ownership society -- his vision for an ownership society. And in that he'll talk about the importance of expanding home ownership, expanding small business ownership. And in that context, he will talk about some of our initiatives to encourage more minority entrepreneurship, and he'll talk about our initiative to close the minority home-ownership gap, and how home ownership is at all-time highs, and minority home-ownership is at all-time highs. And then he'll talk about -- I expect he'll talk about his faith-based initiative, and the importance of local community groups helping those in need and supporting those initiatives.

And he'll talk about the -- oh, I forgot to mention he'll talk about retirement security, as well, and he'll talk about the importance of reforming Social Security, including personal retirement accounts, and then he'll talk about our help for the continent of Africa. So that's kind of the overview of his remarks for today.

Then when we get back, this afternoon, the President has one of his regular meetings scheduled with his Secretary of State. She is returning from her trip, and the President looks forward to -- he actually spoke with her, I believe it was yesterday morning, and got an update on the trip. And he looks forward to talking with her more about the trip she has just concluded.

And I think that's all on the President's schedule really for today. In terms of announcements, we're going to be putting out a statement shortly here. The Prime Minister of Hungary will be coming to the White House on October 3rd. And then on "Ask the White House this afternoon, at 4:00 p.m., we have our Education Secretary, Margaret Spellings, to answer questions.

And I think that's really all I've got to begin with.

Q Why didn't he have time in his schedule to go to the NAACP if he has time in his schedule to go to Indianapolis?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I actually checked on this a few weeks ago when someone had asked, and my understanding is this event had already been scheduled. And we did receive a request from the NAACP, but this event was already scheduled prior to us looking over that request and making a decision.

Q Is he sorry he couldn't go to the NAACP?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think there are some other officials attending the NAACP. The President has a long record of reaching out to the African American community; it goes back to his very early days in elected office, and even before. The President is going to continue reaching out to the African American community. He is pleased to be going to this expo today, and talking to many African American leaders in Indiana. And the President is going to continue focusing on initiatives that expand opportunity and prosperity for all Americans. And that's what he's talking about in his remarks today. So I think this is an opportunity for the President to continue his outreach to the African American community. That's really what this was.

Q On Sunday Julian Bond said they're inviting him now for next year, a year in advance. Is he inclined to accept that nomination?

MR. McCLELLAN: You mean the request?

Q Right.

MR. McCLELLAN: You know, look, the NAACP has, I guess, a new President that is coming in now. And I'm sure at some point the President and he will have an opportunity to visit. I know the President would look forward to that opportunity. The President wants to work with all those who want to work in a constructive way to help expand opportunity and prosperity and improve the quality of life for all Americans. That's what he will continue to do. And he'll continue to reach out to all those who want to work together on our common goals.

Q So he'll go next year?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't even know if we've received an official request. I mean, apparently there's a request through the press, but I don't know if we've received a request at this point. And I think it's way to early to look at next year's schedule.

Q But in principle, he has no opposition to potentially --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, like I said, look, I'm sure at some point he'll sit down and visit with the new President. He had a good relationship, I think, with the outgoing President, Kweisi Mfume. They had some good visits and discussions, looked for ways to work together.

Q Will Karl come back and talk to us at the event?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I don't expect that today.

Q Why not?

MR. McCLELLAN: I just don't -- there's no plans for him to do that.

Q How long is he going to stay on the staff?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think I expressed the President's views yesterday, when it comes to Karl.

Q Remind me, how long is he going to stay on the staff?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's a nice try to keep bringing up questions relating to media reports about an ongoing investigation. As the President indicated yesterday, we are not going to prejudge an ongoing investigation based on media reports. The President directed the White House to cooperate fully, and that's what we've been working to do. And we will be more than happy to talk about the investigation after it is completed.

But the President -- I again made clear yesterday that when it comes to the President's confidence in Karl and his support for him, I made clear our views.

Q Does the President believe it's appropriate for the RNC to continue to weigh in on this matter? They put out another memo today, with a top-10 Joseph Wilson lies. If indeed it's an ongoing investigation and it's improper for the White House to discuss it, does he think it's proper for the Republican Party to weigh in on it?

MR. McCLELLAN: You know, Geoff, I appreciate the question, and as you heard me say yesterday, we are not going to prejudge the outcome of the investigation based on media reports. And I'm not going to get into --

Q What about the RNC, though, Scott?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I said, I'm not going to get into discussing matters relating to an ongoing investigation. We'll let the investigation come to a conclusion, and then I'll be more than happy to talk about it, as will the President.

Q Does the President -- did he yesterday get his --

MR. McCLELLAN: What I'm telling you is that those are all questions relating to an ongoing investigation.

Q Did the President get his news yesterday about Justice Rehnquist's health from media reports?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Andy Card and I did, and Andy Card and I informed the President in the Oval Office yesterday, shortly after the news reports came out. I think that that was the case previously, when the Chief Justice went into the hospital, we didn't have any advance notification either.

Q So why is it acceptable for him to base his information about the Chief Justice's health on news reports, but not about an investigation within the West Wing? What's the distinction there?

MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, I think there's a lot of distinctions there. This is relating to an ongoing criminal investigation. There are clear distinctions in that. That's a nice try to get us to discuss an ongoing investigation, but I think we need to let that investigation continue.

Q Let me just try one last thing, Scott, because I wasn't here yesterday.

MR. McCLELLAN: Hang on, hang on. I'll come to your question, Geoff. I'd like an opportunity to be able to talk before you all jump in, too.

We have said for quite some time that this is an ongoing investigation, and that we weren't going to get into discussing it. So that's not something that's new as of this week.

Q But should the RNC be talking about it?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I said yesterday, and we have been through a couple of days of questions relating to this investigation, I said I'm happy to talk about it once it's over, but until that time, we'll let the investigation continue.

Q How about Wilson? He was on the shows --

MR. McCLELLAN: We're trying to be helpful to its coming to a successful conclusion.

Q Wilson was on the shows today. He basically said there was a massive cover-up being conducted by the White House, and that Rove should be fired. What do you say to Wilson?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President said we're not going to get into prejudging the outcome of an ongoing investigation, based on media reports and --

Q I'm talking about Wilson, I'm not talking about the investigation.

MR. McCLELLAN: We'll let the investigation continue and come to a conclusion, and then we'll be happy to talk about it at that point. But these -- Adam, these are all questions relating to an ongoing investigation, and I indicated yesterday that there's really nothing more to add to what we've already said.

Q Does the White House have a position on Senator Shelby's efforts to boost funding for mass transit security from $200 million to -- or $100 million to $1.2 billion?

MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, Secretary Chertoff talked about it yesterday and he really talked about what our views are. We want to make sure the resources are going -- our resources are dedicated based on risk and that we're focused on a risk-based assessment of how those resources are used.

We've provided significant funding for transit security. We've also provided, I think it's more than $8 billion in grant money to go to state -- states and local governments. And those states and local governments can use those resources -- some of those resources to dedicate toward their mass transit security or towards rail security.

But it's important that we take a risk-based assessment of what our needs are, and then we focus resources -- focus resources on what those needs are based on the risk. That's what we believe; Secretary Chertoff spoke about it yesterday, and that's -- he was expressing our view.

Q So you wouldn't be inclined to support an additional $1.2 billion in funding?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, we think the resources ought to be focused based on risk, toward where those risks are. And that's what we have worked with Congress to do, and we're continuing to work with Congress. We're early in this process still and -- but I pointed out what we have done and how we've significantly increased funding for rail security and port security and other transit security.

Q You don't believe there's need for additional funding?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that we need to make sure that the resources are based on a risk assessment and dedicated in that way. So that's -- I mean, you should look back at what Secretary Chertoff said just yesterday.

Q You mentioned the President, when he went to Europe, was going to be reviewing Supreme Court material on the way. Can you just tell us, right now, is he looking -- is he having those discussions on this trip? It's a short trip.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I don't know that he is right now. He was visiting with Congresswoman Carson,* who's on board with us. She's from Indiana.

Q Who is --

MR. McCLELLAN: Congresswoman Carson*, he visited with her, and I think he's probably right now looking over some of his remarks that he's getting ready to make. But the President is taking this responsibility seriously. He has continued to visit with his key advisors about potential nominees. He has continued to look over material relating to potential nominees.

As you are aware, the President has also been reaching out to members of the Senate. He had a good discussion with bipartisan leaders earlier this week. That's part of our ongoing consultations. We have reached out, as Senator Hatch pointed out, in an unprecedented way to consult with members of the Senate. And those consultations will continue.

Q Has he met with anybody yet, any of the potential picks?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you know that I -- even if he had, I wouldn't be getting into that. But the President indicated last week and indicated again yesterday -- well, indicated last week that he would be narrowing the list down over the course of a few weeks, and then he would be sitting down and visiting with potential nominees. And yesterday, you heard him comment a little bit about that, as well. But we're looking at a diverse group of -- or the President is looking at a diverse group of potential nominees, and he is going through a deliberate and thorough process. That process continues. And he's asking a lot of questions of his key advisors, too, about potential nominees and about the nomination process, and thinking through this very deliberately.

Q So he hasn't begun the interview process yet? I thought the other day you were able to tell us that that hasn't -- that process hasn't begun yet?

MR. McCLELLAN: The other day I think I indicated to you that if the President wants to say more about it, I'm sure he will. And I think he indicated to you yesterday that he probably would not be getting into discussing that, because we want to be respectful of the process and respectful of those people that might be under consideration for this vacancy.

Q Ken Mehlman today at the NAACP plans to talk about how Republicans have been wrong --

MR. McCLELLAN: And I should point out that, because, Ann, you brought up Chief Justice Rehnquist earlier, that we continue to wish him a speedy recovery and hope he's out of the hospital soon.

Q What was that? I'm sorry.

MR. McCLELLAN: That we continue to wish Chief Justice Rehnquist a speedy recovery.

Q How are you updated about his condition, Scott?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q How are you all being updated on his condition?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, if you're asking if we've had any contact from the Court, we haven't, regarding his hospitalization.

Q Well, why weren't you guys informed before it was in the press, before it was on TV? When did you guys get your first notification?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's what Ann was asking at the beginning, if you want to check your tape.

Q So when -- okay.

MR. McCLELLAN: I can say it again, but --

Q It was after it was on the --

MR. McCLELLAN: Andy Card and I informed the President --

Q After it was reported --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- after the news reports came out, or after the -- following the statement by the Court indicated that he had gone to the hospital with a fever.

Q Why wouldn't they tell you before? Why wouldn't they tell you before they make a public announcement?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, like I said, the previous time he had gone to the hospital for surgery, I don't recall that we were given any advance notice.

Q Today, Ken Mehlman is going to talk about Republican Party's past relationship with blacks and say that it was wrong. Does the President agree with that message?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, he does. The President has long been committed to reaching out to people from all walks of life. He has long been committed to making a concerted effort to reach out to the African American community based on the compassionate conservative agenda that he has pursued. And he's going to be talking about the policies that we've been pursuing that are beneficial to all Americans, and that includes the African American community. And I think you should look at what he says when he talks about encouraging more minority entrepreneurship and closing the minority home-ownership gap and raising our educational standards so that every child is having the opportunity to learn and succeed. And these are important initiatives that we have undertaken, and I think it would be beneficial to all Americans, but also -- and that includes the African American community.

Q Is it fair to say that the President disapproves of Nixon's southern strategy, then?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think what Nedra was referring to was what Ken was saying in his remarks, saying that you go back to previous years and the Republican Party had essentially given up on the African American vote and reaching out to the African American community. And he, from my understanding, was saying in his remarks, that that's wrong. And that's why I said, yes, we agree with that. The President believes in reaching out to all Americans. And that's what he has always done, not only through his approach in leading, but also through his policies.

Thank you.

END 12:11 P.M. EDT

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