For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 10, 2005
Press Gaggle by Trent Duffy
Aboard Air Force One
En route Chicago, Illinois
9:10 A.M. CDT
MR. DUFFY: Good morning. The President's official schedule: he had his daily intelligence briefing. We're traveling now to Chicago, Illinois, where he will sign H.R. 3, the Transportation Equity Act. You have all the details about the transportation infrastructure bill. The President will be talking about why it's good for our economy and how it will reduce congestion, how it will increase productivity and how it will increase safety.
And then he flies back to the ranch, and that's all he has for his official activities. We have Senator Inhofe on board, the Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. That's what I have.
Q North Korea is blaming the U.S., alone, for the stall in the talks, and says that they must be able to have a peaceful nuclear program. Is there any scenario where the United States can support a peaceful nuclear program, perhaps with some oversight, as in the case of Iran?
MR. DUFFY: I think the President addressed that yesterday, and I don't have anything to add. As far as the North Korean talks, Christopher Hill, our representative there, has said repeatedly that the United States, as well as the entire five nations, are trying very hard to reach a conclusion and agreement there, and we continue to hold out hope that the North Koreans will join us in that agreement.
Q He also expressed some concern that perhaps these talks weren't going to result in any progress. Does the White House still think that they will?
MR. DUFFY: We're obviously backing Mr. Hill and we're hopeful that they can find some agreement. But North Korea needs to make a strategic decision to set aside its ambition for nuclear weapons, that the five nations are in consensus that there must be a nuclear free Korean peninsula.
Q How can the President claim that he's happy with this highway bill if it's much more expensive than he said was originally tenable?
MR. DUFFY: Well, it's not much more expensive than he originally intended. In fact, it's close to $100 billion less than where it originally started. If you recall, in the House it was close to $380, $390, almost $400 billion -- it's now $286 billion. This is a balanced transportation bill that funds our infrastructure needs while not breaking the bank.
We need good roads. We need good highways. Americans spend more time sitting in traffic and burning up gasoline because of congestion. That harms our economy, that harms our quality of life. And this bill does a lot more than build highways. There's money in this bill for bus, there's money in this bill for transit. A lot of low income people rely on public transportation to get to and from work.
So this is a broad, important infrastructure bill that keeps America moving forward.
Q So is he happy with the pork that's in it, as well?
MR. DUFFY: The President believes this is a balanced bill that funds our transportation needs without breaking the bank.
Q Trent, did the IAEA end its meeting on Iran, do you know?
MR. DUFFY: I don't know.
Q I have a question. The ruling yesterday with regard -- by the judge with regard to Walt Disney and Michael Eisner and Ovitz -- you know, the President has said that board rooms need to be held accountable for malfeasance and being good corporate, as well as -- being good corporate citizens. The judge said that board members can't be held liable for decisions that they make. Does the President agree with that?
MR. DUFFY: We typically don't comment on individual cases like that.
Q But in general, would the President be happy with corporate boards being held accountable for the decisions they make?
MR. DUFFY: You're asking in the context of an individual case, I'm just going to decline comment on that. You know what the President has said about corporate responsibility.
Q Trent, the mayor of Baghdad says he's been deposed by armed gunmen and replaced by a member of a Shiite militia. Is the President aware of that? Is it a point of concern for the administration, in terms of how Baghdad is being run?
MR. DUFFY: I don't have anything for you on that, Bill. I can check into it.
Q Could you set up tomorrow's meeting a little bit? What's he and Rumsfeld going to talk about?
MR. DUFFY: Sure. The President tomorrow will have his entire foreign policy team down, as he does every year. You know the foreign policy team, but this is a chance for the President to hear from his top advisors about not only foreign policy, but about the Defense Department. And some of the top priorities for the Defense Department include transformation, it includes the quadrennial defense review, it includes probably an update on the base realignment and closure process, as well as other items as a way to make sure that our troops and our military continues to be the best fighting force in the world.
Q Are they going to talk about -- what foreign policy subjects are they going to get into?
MR. DUFFY: I think they'll get into all of the ones that we know about. Obviously, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East, of course -- we're making progress on the disengagement plan -- Lebanon. I don't want to leave any out, but, I mean, all the ones that you'd expect -- Iran, obviously.
Q In discussing the military subjects, is there going to be any discussion of specific troop levels for Iraq over the coming six months -- elections, et cetera?
MR. DUFFY: I would expect something like that would come up. But, again, as you know, the President always relies on his commanders on the ground to make those kinds of recommendations and those kinds of conversations are private.
Q Right, but they will be discussing that kind of thing?
MR. DUFFY: I would anticipate it. I don't know for a fact, but I would anticipate it coming up, sure.
END 9:16 A.M. CDT