For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 25, 2005
Press Gaggle with Trent Duffy
Crawford Middle School
12:05 P.M. CDT
MR. DUFFY: Hello. Good afternoon, everyone. Just a quick update on the President's daily schedule. He had his normal intelligence briefings, and he has been for a bike ride this morning. Past that, I don't have anything to update you on his schedule.
Let me say a quick note about Tropical Storm Katrina. The President has been informed regularly about the tropical storm, and federal authorities are coordinating with Governor Bush and Florida officials on preparations. The government is ready, we're watching, and we're taking steps to make sure that people get to safe areas or take the proper precautions from the storm. We're also moving to ensure that all relief and recovery resources are in place so that these efforts can take place real time following any storm event.
And with that, I will take your questions. Olivier.
Q On the Middle East, Prime Minister Abbas says Israel has intentionally tried to damage peace prospects by announcing plans to expand the largest West Bank settlement and after killing five extremists. What do you guys have to say about the expansion of Ma'ale Adumim as well as the recent violence?
MR. DUFFY: Well, we always denounce any violence, and we urge both sides to exercise calm. We do believe that this is an historic opportunity to make real progress on peace in the Middle East. I think Sean McCormack addressed many of these questions yesterday, as well as David Welch. And I don't know that I have much to add past that. But let me see if there's anything further, and if there is, I'll bring it back and we'll post that for you.
Q If you could zero in on Abbas's comments, specifically, that would be great.
MR. DUFFY: All right.
Q On the Iraqi constitution, I'm sure you saw that the Iraqi parliament suspended indefinitely a vote. Do you have any response to that?
MR. DUFFY: Well, the Iraqis continue to work very hard on their own constitution, and to meet the deadline that they themselves established and set into law. The United States is ready and willing and there to help and assist them meet their own deadlines, but the progress is encouraging. All sides are at the table; they're still talking, they're negotiating. And those are what you see in a democracy and a government that's working to develop a very important document. I think it says a lot about the weight that the Iraqis put into this document that they're taking such great care and effort to craft it, so that it is a durable document and so that it is an important document.
As President Bush said Tuesday, our own constitution took quite a bit of time and effort to construct, and it's been amended several times since. So we're encouraged by the progress. The U.S. is working to assist them, but they continue to work towards that.
Q Does the President feel that over the last couple of days he's made an effective and convincing case that Cindy Sheehan is misguided in her feelings about the war and what should happen to the troops?
MR. DUFFY: Well, first of all, the President has spoken continuously about the way he approaches this war, following September 11th, 2001. On September 14th, 2001, he stood at the National Cathedral and told all of America that this was going to be a very long and difficult war, and that there were going to be some very trying moments; but that because of what happened on 9/11, that we had to view the world in a different way.
The bipartisan 9/11 commission wrote all about this in chapter two. The name of that chapter is called, "The Foundation of the New Terrorism." And the bipartisan commission members wrote about the U.S. reaction to terrorist acts overseas in the years leading up to 9/11. They reached a fundamental conclusion: When America takes a single step backwards in the face of terrorism overseas, it brings the terrorists 50 steps closer to our own shores. We saw that after the result of embassy bombings of American embassies overseas, after the U.S.S. Cole was bombed, after Beirut, after Somalia.
The President reiterated that on Tuesday. He empathizes with Ms. Sheehan and those who have lost loved ones. He said Tuesday, again, that they do not represent the view of all mothers and fathers and husbands and wives and children. But we certainly empathize with Ms. Sheehan and those who oppose the war. The President feels fundamentally differently. He'll continue to talk about why it's necessary to win this war. And I might point that the American Legion, at their national convention on Tuesday, overwhelmingly passed a resolution in support of the President's approach to the war on terror.
Q Has the President talked to or reached out to any of the negotiators in the -- any of the parties in Iraq as the constitution negotiations have gone along?
MR. DUFFY: I don't have anything more to read out on the President's contacts. But let me see if I can get anything for you on that. I think, principally, it's been Ambassador Khalilzad.
Q Trent, when the President was asked on Tuesday if he will meet with Cindy Sheehan, he didn't really give a direct answer. Can you say that there are no plans for him, that he has decided he won't meet with her again?
MR. DUFFY: He said he met with Ms. Sheehan; he did. If there's anything to announce on the President's schedule, we'll let you know. I mean, again, he's met with close to 300 families and close to 1,000 family members of those who have lost a loved one in this conflict. He believes it's one of his most important and solemn responsibilities, and he has chosen to make those meetings private. And he believes that that's just the appropriate way to go about that.
Q Well, once again you're leaving it open whether or not he'll meet with her. Is that what you're trying to do, or can you just say the President has decided he doesn't see a point in meeting with her again?
MR. DUFFY: I think the President addressed that directly. You know how we deal with things like the President's future schedule, which is that we don't announce it prior to it coming up. So if there are any announcements, we'll let you know. The President was asked on a number of occasions about this, he's answered it directly, and I don't have anything more to add.
Q Do you have any more of a readout on the meetings the President had with families yesterday? You told us a little bit about it, but do you know if any of them directly voiced any concern about how the war is progressing to Mr. Bush or the First Lady directly?
MR. DUFFY: From those I talked with, I certainly didn't pick up anything along those lines. Obviously, you saw the reaction in the hall at the public event by the National Guard, which, many of you have written about, has undergone great challenge in this conflict. And I think we all witnessed the kind of support that the National Guard and Reserve members and the family members there were expressing.
But as far as the President's meeting with the families, they are very private, and the President himself has chosen that that be the case because, again, he believes it's just appropriate. As I said yesterday, the President's number one role is to express the country's thanks and gratitude for the sacrifice of their loved ones in this conflict, and then to be there to console or comfort them in any way possible.
Q Beyond sharing, you know, consolation and the emotion, do you know if he has ever been directly challenged by a family member in any of the 300-some meetings?
MR. DUFFY: There are different views expressed, there's no question about it. As the President said on Tuesday, most of those he meets with express support for going forward in the way and the manner in which the President has laid out. But there are those who have different views. And the President spoke to that directly after his meeting with his foreign policy team and he appreciates that. That's also part of his responsibilities as Commander-in-Chief.
Q Back on Iraq, Trent, is there any sense in the administration that there -- that parliament's recess could actually give a little bit of breathing room to the negotiators and help the process somewhat? Is there -- is there an upside, in the administration's view?
MR. DUFFY: Well, I think I'm just going to leave it where I did, Jennifer. It's not the U.S. position to be the play-by-play announcer. We support what they're doing. They are working together in -- in a non-violent fashion to achieve a very important objective here, which is to write a constitution that can be durable; that represents the views of the majority; that respects the minority rights; that has women's rights; and has everything that, you know, that the international community wants, and that Iraqis want. Again, this is an Iraqi process.
Q Can you talk at all about the President's travel next week?
MR. DUFFY: No. We'll have the week ahead tomorrow. I mean, I can tell you that, as we have talked about, that he will be traveling to San Diego next week to deliver remarks about the commemoration of the victory of World War II. Again, we can have more -- Scott will be down tomorrow and can preview all next week.
Q Trent, with gas prices so high, will you tell us, first of all, what is the White House's reaction to the current highs, and why won't you let us know how much the motorcade -- how much gas the motorcade uses?
MR. DUFFY: Give me the first one again.
Q Your reaction to the high gas prices and what the President is doing to address them.
MR. DUFFY: Reaction to the high gas prices? They're too high. The President, as well as all the administration, realize that the high gas prices are having effect mostly on family's bottom lines, for people driving around for small businesses. The President recognized this when he was elected to office and tried to have a national energy policy put in place. We finally achieved that. It took way too long, but we finally have achieved that. And what we can do now is some unfinished business in the energy bill, which is to promote more domestic oil exploration, to build refining capacity, to build the kind of distribution infrastructure that this country needs.
This didn't happen overnight. We're not going to get out of it overnight. But what did happen over the past 10 to 15 years was that there was a regulatory and legal impediment to doing the kinds of things that everyone knew needed to be done.
Now, we're taking good steps now towards more fuel efficient vehicles. You saw DOT announce just yesterday, or Tuesday, rather, about -- that we're going to have more fuel efficiency for America's vehicles. So we need to do more. We have the Justice Department, as well as the FTC, monitoring for any evidence of gouging and there will be appropriate action taken should there be any evidence to that.
As to the motorcade costs, those are not -- those are not the purview of the White House. Those are Secret Service and others that control those.
Q On -- for the state visit with President Hu, what can President Hu offer to counter growing protectionist and anti-Chinese sentiments in Congress, and what can the U.S. offer the Chinese?
MR. DUFFY: We'll answer some of those questions as it becomes closer to the actual meeting. I don't believe it is a state visit, though, Jay. There -- it is not a state visit; it is not an official state visit. But we can do more of that as the meeting approaches. It's not for some time.
Anything further? Okay, thank you.
END 12:17 P.M. CDT