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
October 17, 2005

Press Briefing by Scott McClellan
The James S. Brady Briefing Room

Play Video  Video (Real)

12:16 P.M. EDT

MR. MCCLELLAN: Good afternoon, everyone. I want to begin with one announcement, and then I have a couple other brief remarks to make.

The President will host Prime Minister Berlusconi at the White House for a meeting and lunch on October 31st. Italy is one of America's strongest allies and closest partners in the global war on terror. Under Prime Minister Berlusconi's leadership, Italy is playing a leading role in international stabilization and reconstruction efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans. The President and the Prime Minister will discuss a range of issues, including their shared commitment to advance freedom and democracy around the world.

The President was pleased to welcome President Purvanov to the White House today. And they had a good discussion. Bulgaria is a good ally and a strong partner in the cause of freedom.

Following that, the President was pleased to welcome six distinguished former members of the Texas Supreme Court, Democrats and Republicans alike, to the White House. As you heard from them just a short time ago, they have seen Harriet Miers' legal talents up close. They have witnessed her deep commitment to the law, her skilled advocacy on behalf of her clients and her leadership in the legal profession. They share the President's confidence that Harriet Miers will be an outstanding Supreme Court justice because of her qualifications and experience and judicial temperament.

They are accomplished justices who know what is needed to serve on our nation's highest court and they understand Harriet's 30-year career, including managing one of Dallas's largest law firms, serving as president of the Texas Bar Association, and serving as the White House Counsel make her uniquely qualified to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Harriet is continuing her courtesy visits today, with the Senate now back in session -- or back in Washington. She looks forward to visiting with a number of additional senators this week. By the end of the day she will have visited with 18 members of the United States Senate.

So, with that, I'll be glad to go to your questions.

Q Why did the President feel it's necessary to invite these former justices, or sitting justices, to the White House to talk about Harriet Miers? Is he trying to change the debate from the religious preoccupation, which was much discussed here last week?

MR. McCLELLAN: Much discussed where last week?

Q Here in this room.

MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, in this room we've been discussing her qualifications and her experience --

Q Well, you have. Some of us --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- and her judicial temperament. So that's what we've always been discussing here at the White House, and that's what we will continue to highlight. These are former justices of the highest court in Texas who --

Q So why did you bring them here?

MR. McCLELLAN: -- know Harriet Miers very well. Harriet Miers is not someone who has sought the limelight, and the American people are just coming to know her. And these are people who are highly respected in the legal community. They know what it takes to serve on our nation's highest court, and they are people who know Harriet Miers well.

And as you heard from Chief Justice -- former Chief Justice Hill, he said that she is a brilliant lawyer, and she is someone well-versed on constitutional law. And they also talked about how she is fair and open-minded. And so they are people that know her well and know that she'll make an outstanding Supreme Court justice. She's going through the confirmation process, and we want the American people to get to know Harriet Miers like the President knows her.

Q Isn't it a little unusual to bring them here to the White House --

MR. McCLELLAN: This is for a vacancy on the highest court in our land, and this is an important vacancy. The President has chosen someone who has a distinguished legal career and a strong record of accomplishment. She is someone who is well-respected within the legal community, and well-respected by those who know her well. And that's part of the confirmation process, is talking to the American people about who she is. And she looks forward to continuing to talk to members of the Senate and talk to them about her qualifications and her experience and her judicial philosophy. That's what this should be about, and that's what we're continuing to highlight.

Helen, go ahead.

Q The President doesn't want anyone who would legislate from the bench. Can you define that a little bit more? For example, is Brown versus the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas -- was that legislating? Was Miranda legislating? Was the right to a lawyer legislating from the bench?

MR. McCLELLAN: These are great questions. I'm not the one who's going through the confirmation process. These are questions that will come up in the confirmation hearing process, I imagine. I'm sure the --

Q But I want to know what you are saying. You keep saying --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sure that members of the Senate --

Q -- you can't legislate from the bench. Would all of those rulings been wrong under your --

MR. McCLELLAN: And what we mean by it is that she is someone who will strictly interpret our Constitution and our laws, that will not try to make law from the bench. That's what the President means by it.

And that means that she is someone who will look at the facts of a case and apply the law, what the law says, and that's what the American people expect in a Supreme Court justice. And that's what the President has always looked for. He's nominated more than 200 people to the bench. And Harriet Miers has been very involved --

Q Is Roe versus Wade the law --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- has been very involved in that process.

Now, in terms of cases that could come before the Court, I don't think anyone has an expectation that a future judge should answer a question about a case that could come before that Court. A judge should be fair and open-minded and look at the facts of a case and then apply the law.

What you heard from these Supreme Court justices just now was that Harriet Miers is someone who is very fair-minded, and she is someone who will look at the facts and apply the law. And these are all questions about legal issues that she will be answering.

Q But you bring them up. I mean, you --

MR. McCLELLAN: That's right. And she looks forward to --

Q -- keep talking about legislating from the bench. Does that mean that nothing changes in 200 years?

MR. McCLELLAN: Of course not, Helen. She will be talking about these issues when she goes before the Senate Judiciary Committee to answer questions. And she looks forward to answering their questions, and we look forward to the American people seeing her before the Judiciary Committee, where she will have an opportunity to discuss these issues and more.

Go ahead, Jessica.

Q John Fund writes an article today saying that several people on a conference call assured religious conservatives that Harriet Miers would overturn Roe versus Wade. You were going to find out if any member of the White House staff was on that conference call.

MR. McCLELLAN: That was not a call organized by the White House, and as far as I've been able to learn, no one at the White House was involved on that call.

Q And is it correct that Karl Rove was the person who asked those two people who made the assurances that sh3 would overturn Roe versus Wade -- that Karl Rove asked them to join?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think it's well-known that Karl and Dr. Dobson spoke about the nomination and about the process. And they had a good discussion. And Karl talked about individuals who know Harriet Miers well, like Justice Hecht, and said that they would be people that probably would be willing to talk about her.

Q And did he say this knowing -- and is the White House aware that Harriet Miers would vote to overturn Roe versus Wade?

MR. McCLELLAN: Not at all.

Q I understand you have no litmus test. Do you still know that she would?

MR. McCLELLAN: We don't know what her positions will be on future cases because we don't have a litmus test, and we don't ask those questions. What we do know is that she is someone who is deeply committed to strictly interpreting our Constitution and our laws. She is someone who has deep respect for our Constitution and our laws. She has gained that deep respect over the course of her 30 years in the legal profession, where she has represented clients in federal and state courts and appellate courts, and where she has been rated by the National Law Journal as one of the top women attorneys in the United States. She is someone who is uniquely qualified to serve on the Court.

Q Does the President disapprove of this conference call and what happened on it?

MR. McCLELLAN: What happened? I don't know about the conference call. You'll have to ask those who organized the conference call.

Kelly, go ahead.

Q Is Karl Rove here at the White House working today? And if indictments were to come down in the special prosecutor's case, is there a contingency plan to replace someone such as Mr. Rove or Mr. Libby, who hold enormous positions within this administration?

MR. McCLELLAN: Karl is here at the White House doing his duties, as he always does. And in terms of your question about any contingency planning, I'm not going to get into prejudging any outcome of the investigation. The investigation is ongoing at this time, and that would be speculating about outcomes of the investigation. I'm just not going to do that. As you heard, the President responded to that question earlier today, as well.

Q In the cutaway shots from the Oval Office event, since I was not pool today, I did not see Mr. Rove. But in previous events such as that, he's typically in that kind of a meeting.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, he does not typically attend meetings with world leaders.

Q If the status changes -- if either Rove or Libby were to get a target letter, would you inform us?

MR. McCLELLAN: Terry, those are questions that need to be directed to the special prosecutor or others, not the White House.

Q No, I'm just saying, if either of those gentlemen receive a target --

Q Well, they work here --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, who is saying what? Ed, I think that you've heard us talk about this. There's an ongoing investigation. And we're not going to comment on that investigation while it's ongoing. The special prosecutor's office has asked us to not get into discussing the case while it's ongoing. And that's why the best way to help this case move forward is to refer questions like that to the special prosecutor.

Now there are individuals that have lawyers that represent them, as well, and you can reach out to those individuals, too. But it's not -- we wouldn't necessarily know here at the White House what letters or information goes out from the special prosecutor.

Q But you wouldn't make a commitment, though, if you found out, to disclose it here to the press?

MR. McCLELLAN: I will do my part to help the investigation proceed forward. And doing our part means not commenting on it here from this podium.

Q So that's a "no," is that correct?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you can talk to the special prosecutor.

Q Scott, this morning Dr. Rice and Indian Minister of Technology signed agreement between U.S. and India, science and technology agreement. Also because of India's work in the IAEA against Iran, Iran canceled the pipeline agreement with India. Now what is the future of the President Bush and Indian Prime Minister signing on July 18th between U.S. and India, the agreement on -- it's for nuclear technology, which is now in the Congress. So where --

MR. McCLELLAN: We did sign an important agreement and we thought it was based on a realistic assessment of things and a commitment by India to abide by certain agreements, as well. And the President believes very strongly that we need to continue to encourage development of peaceful nuclear energy, that that will help address the issue that we see here in America with high gas prices. High energy prices is something that the President is very concerned about. Our economy is continuing to grow strong, despite some difficult obstacles it has had to overcome over the last few years. And the President, though, remains concerned about high energy prices, and that's why we're working to take additional steps.

One of those steps is to ease some of the demand in the market internationally, and that is to encourage others to make use of peaceful nuclear energy.

Q I have another question on earthquake. As far as India Globe is concerned, earthquake -- about almost 60,000 have now died and over 4 million are homeless on both sides of Kashmir. But also at the same time, terrorists are killing innocent worshippers in Indian Kashmir . So as far as terrorism is going on and nature is killing thousands there, so where do we stand now on this stopping the terrorism in that part of the world?

MR. McCLELLAN: Those are two different questions, I think, first of all. And in terms of the earthquake that took place in the region, the President has been in touch with President Musharraf and Prime Minister Singh. He had good discussions with them. He expressed our condolences on behalf of the United States to those who lost their lives, and he assured both leaders that we would continue to do our part to help them as they move forward on rebuilding their lives and their communities.

This is an historic -- this is an earthquake unlike has been seen in that region for some time, and we are all saddened by the loss of life. And that's why the United States military and our Agency for International Development, USAID, is in the region and assisting with those who are in need and helping to get them emergency supplies and shelter and food and water, and helping to get them medical care, as well. And our military is providing a lot of support, in terms of helicopters and aircraft to help get people to safe places where they can be treated, as well. And that's what we will continue to do.

India lost a number of people, as well, I think over a thousand. And we always stand ready to assist if there's any need of it in India, as well.

Q And terrorism?

MR. McCLELLAN: In terms of terrorism, I think you've heard the President talk about that recently in a number of speeches. We remain engaged in a global war on terrorism. The election that took place in Iraq this weekend was a milestone for the Iraqi people, and it is also a hopeful moment for peace in the world, because the Iraqi people are showing through their determination and courage that they are going to continue to defy the terrorists. The Iraqi people going to the ballot box in large numbers and freely expressing their views stands in stark contrast to the vision of the terrorists, which is simply one of killing innocent civilians and causing chaos and destruction. And we commend the Iraqi people on a successful election, and look forward to continuing to support them as they move forward.

There is progress being made on the political front and there's progress being made on the security front. We saw -- Iraq is a central front right now in the war on terrorism. A peaceful Iraq will serve as an example -- a peaceful and free Iraq will serve as an example to the rest of the Middle East. And the President recognized after September 11th that not only did we need to take the fight to the enemy and bring them to justice, but we also needed to work to change the status quo in the Middle East, because for too long we had ignored democracy in the Middle East and thought we'd have stability, and we got neither.

Q Scott, back to the Harriet Miers conversation, the conference call that the White House did not organize. Are you disputing the assertion that she was described by those who know her best as someone who was pro-life who would overturn Roe versus Wade?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Justice Hecht disputed one of the assertions in the article and said that, as far as he recalls, that when it came to a question on where she stood on Roe versus Wade, he said, "I don't know." So, I mean, go back and look at the article. I couldn't tell you more about the call because it wasn't one that was organized by the White House.

Q Would such a prejudgment by the nominee violate a conservative judicial philosophy? And how would the --

MR. McCLELLAN: A prejudgment?

Q Sure. If she is, as those who know her best have described her as someone who is ready to overturn Roe versus Wade, is that contrary to a conservative judicial philosophy?

MR. McCLELLAN: Carl, again, it's not something that the President asks of his judicial nominees. We don't have a litmus test. You're asking me a question about a litmus test; we don't have one. The President nominates people who are highly-qualified and who will strictly interpret our Constitution and our laws, people who have a conservative judicial philosophy. He has a long record of doing so. And I think the American people appreciate that because that's what they want on the Court. You're asking me to jump into a case that could come before the United States Supreme Court. What the American people want is someone who will serve on the bench that will look at the facts in the case, look at the law, and then apply the law -- not try to legislate from the bench. And that's the type of person that Harriet Miers is.

Q A couple times last week we asked about examples or demonstrations of a judicially conservative philosophy prior to her time in the White House. You said you'd find it; did you have any luck?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q You said you'd look into them, those circumstances or -- demonstrations or evidence of a conservative --

MR. McCLELLAN: You asked about, I think, her constitutional experience, and I talked about her constitutional experience.

Q Actually, what you said you'd take and look into was demonstrated evidence of a judicially conservative philosophy prior to her time at the White House.

MR. McCLELLAN: Sure, and in terms of her -- look back over her legal career. She is someone who has grown to deeply respect the Constitution and our laws. And she is someone who has been involved in the President's judicial nomination process, so she knows the type of person that the President is looking for. But she's had to deal with a wide range of issues, and she is the only one that would be on the Supreme Court who has actually had to comply with constitutional issues relating to the Voting Rights Act, and as a member of the Dallas City Council.

So we can talk at length about her constitutional experience -- I think that's what you're getting to -- but she is someone who is deeply committed to our Constitution and our laws.

Connie, go ahead.

Q Thank you. Two questions. There were some very controversial Supreme Court rulings today. One held for the tobacco companies, dramatically, like, billions of dollars. The other helps a prisoner get an abortion, in Missouri, or get transported for an abortion. Could you please provide us with some White House reaction on --

MR. McCLELLAN: I think the best place to ask those questions is to the Department of Justice. I'm not sure of what our involvement was on the one case you asked about. In terms of the tobacco case, that is something that the Attorney General is having a news conference about. It's a legal matter; it's still a legal matter at this point, and so the best place to direct those questions is to the Department of Justice.

Q But how does the President feel about a taxpayer-funded abortion for a prisoner?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you know the President's views when it comes to issues of life. The President has stood strongly on the side of life.

Q And then one more, on the upcoming meeting with the Palestinian Authority. What are the expectations?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that meeting is going to be taking place later this week. The President looks forward to welcoming President Abbas back to the White House and talking about a range of important issues. Right at the top of the list will be the Middle East peace process. We continue to urge the Palestinian leadership to take steps to put in place law and order in Gaza and move forward on good governance. We have been supporting them as they move forward on those efforts, and we will continue to do so. General Ward was in the region to help train -- or help set up a unified force structure with the Palestinians. And the Quartet envoy, Wolfensohn, has been in the region, too, working to help with the economic development side of things.

President Abbas has been someone who has spoken out about ending the violence and stopping the terror, and we appreciate that. We want to continue to urge them to take steps in that direction.

Q Scott, back on the Miers nomination. There is, as yet, no indication up on Capitol Hill that her nomination is in any serious trouble, especially among Republicans and the full 100-member Senate. Does the President feel, though, he has to win over people who are not senators with this nomination?

MR. McCLELLAN: The American people are coming to know Harriet Miers and they're coming to see what the President already knows, which is that she will make an outstanding Supreme Court justice. When you look at her experience and her qualifications and her judicial philosophy, she's exactly the kind of person that we need on the United States Supreme Court. She will bring diversity of perspective and experience to the Court, which is much needed, she is someone whose qualifications exceed -- are equal to or exceed previous justices that have been confirmed to the United States Supreme Court. We encourage people to continue to look at her record.

What's happening now is that the announcement has been made, people have started to get to know Harriet Miers. Now the confirmation process is moving forward. She's having courtesy visits with members of the United States Senate, so that they can begin to get to know her. She's completing a questionnaire that will be turned in very soon to the Senate Judiciary Committee, so that they can begin to know more about her record and her experience and her judicial temperament.

And then she will be going before the Judiciary Committee, where the American people have the opportunity to see her talk about her experience and talk about her judicial philosophy, and hear her answer questions from members of the United States Senate. And the United States Senate will then move forward on that confirmation. And we're confident that they will confirm her once they get to know who she is.

Q But today's event, in particular, seemed like one of those little extra events that perhaps wasn't done for the Roberts nomination, as I recall, to try to assuage --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there are a number of people that we put out to talk about Chief Justice Roberts who knew him well. And you saw that he is someone that is highly-respected within the legal profession; Harriet Miers is someone who is highly-respected within the legal profession, as well. Chief Justice Roberts is going to be an outstanding Chief Justice, and Harriet Miers will be an outstanding member of the Supreme Court.

Go ahead.

Q Scott, is there -- has the President's working group on financial markets looked into the case of this brokerage firm, Refco, and whether its possible insolvency poses any broader risk to financial markets?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'll take a look at it. I don't know that we'd have more comment on it anyway, but you might want to direct it to the Treasury Department, too.

Q Secretary Snow is in China at the moment, so I was wondering --

MR. McCLELLAN: But the Treasury Department still has people there.

Go ahead.

Q Scott, on Wednesday you encouraged me to look at news reports about scandals surrounding the Texas lottery when Harriet Miers was chairwoman of that commission. And it turns out there are hundreds of news reports from the late '90s covering problems with contracts and kickbacks involving the company GTECH and Ben Barnes. I have a two-part question.

MR. McCLELLAN: Okay.

Q You and the President --

MR. McCLELLAN: See what happens when I encourage you to do things? (Laughter.)

Q Thank you. You and the President are aware of these hundreds of news reports, aren't you?

MR. McCLELLAN: We're well aware of her time at the Texas Lottery Commission. There were problems that did occur there, and she helped clean up the Texas Lottery Commission. She was praised for her work as chairwoman of the Texas Lottery Commission.

Q What is the President's response to those allegations that he put Ms. Miers in charge of that lottery commission to be sure GTECH kept its lucrative contract, and its lobbyist Ben Barnes would not talk about his alleged influence concerning young George Bush and --

MR. McCLELLAN: Our responses to those questions have already been addressed and disputed. And I think we don't need to rehash those issues.

Go ahead.

Q Thank you. Scott, on a speech in Spain over the weekend, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said OPEC is now pumping oil at near capacity so the price of crude oil will remain above $50 a barrel. Chavez said we are at the doorway of a major energy crisis worldwide, and that we will have to develop other resources. All this sounds very much like what the President has been saying, so does the President think Chavez is now trying to make peace?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know. I haven't really followed his comments over the last few days. In terms of energy issues, I think the President has made his views very well known. And that's why we've moved forward to pass a comprehensive energy plan for the United States. That's why we are working with other partners around the world to address some of these supply-and-demand issues that have caused a tight market when it comes to gas. And we're going to continue working to address high energy prices. That's why the President is moving forward with Congress on efforts to expand refining capacity. That is a problem that we need to address.

Q I have one more question, if I may.

MR. MCCLELLAN: Okay.

Q What does the President plan to do about Iran, and its (inaudible) nuclear weapons now that Russia refuses to go along with the tough U.S. policy against Iran? Since Russia will probably veto any action against Iran in the United Nations Security Council, are the President's hands now tied?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, a couple of things. Secretary Rice said that she had a good discussion with her Russian counterparts just last week on this matter. And she expressed our appreciation for Russia and the European 3's efforts to get Iran to come back to the negotiating table. We continue to call on Iran to get back to the negotiating table and act in good faith. We've made that very clear.

We have deep concerns about Iran's behavior, given their history. The international community is growing more and more concerned about Iran's refusal to come back to the talks. You saw at the International Atomic Energy Agency that a majority now supports sending Iran to the Security Council if they don't come back to the table and negotiate in good faith. And that is certainly an option that is on the table. And if Iran does not change its behavior and get back to the negotiating table, it is an option that is available to the international community.

Paula, go ahead.

Q I have a question on budget policy. Congress is looking at several ways to help pay for hurricane costs and reduce the deficit. Is it accurate to say that the administration supports cuts to Medicare and Medicaid up to $50 billion, as well as rescissions in such existing laws such as highway spending and across-the-board spending cuts, while at the same time continues to oppose any rolling back of tax cuts?

MR. McCLELLAN: We do support rescissions of spending increases. We've made that view pretty clear. In terms of the specifics, I'm not ready to get into that, beyond what we've already outlined in the budget. It's important to keep the tax cuts in place, because that keeps our economy growing. And a growing economy has increased revenues coming into the federal government.

In terms of our budget, our budget has been outlined, we've talked about it. And in terms of Medicaid, Medicaid is going to continue to grow significantly. We are proposing to cut out some of the loopholes that should not exist in that program. We want to make sure that those who are in need of getting Medicaid assistance are getting their help.

In terms of Medicare, we've modernized Medicare to provide seniors with prescription drug coverage. And we're moving forward on providing that drug coverage, along with other benefits and choices for our seniors, so that they can choose the kind of health care that best fits their needs.

Now, we do need to cut unnecessary spending in the budget. And that's why we're committed to working with Congress to do so. We've put a lot on the table in terms of savings -- some $20 billion in savings when it comes to discretionary spending, and then some nearly $200 billion over the next 10 years in mandatory spending. You need to address both. That's why the President has been trying to move forward on Social Security reform, as well. And we're going to continue to work with members of Congress. We appreciate their commitment on -- the commitment of the leadership to move forward and address these spending issues and make sure that we're funding our priorities, but that we're holding the line on spending elsewhere, and that we're cutting unnecessary spending.

That's what we've been committed to doing, and that's what we continue to remain committed to doing.

Q But what is your response to critics of your fiscal policy who say that by focusing on spending alone and excluding, particularly your higher -- your high-income taxpayers from any reduction in their tax breaks is, in essence, favoring the wealthy over the poor and elderly?

MR. McCLELLAN: We cut taxes for all Americans who pay federal income taxes. It was important to get our economy growing, and we've seen over the past few years that our economy is growing strong and creating jobs. Millions of jobs have been created in the last couple of years. The economy has taken some hits over the last few years. That's why we acted to pass tax cuts to get our economy growing and to get our economy creating jobs. And that's important to continue keeping revenue coming in to the federal government because a growing economy has shown that revenues are up. We've seen revenues up over the last few years.

A growing economy means more revenues coming into the federal government. In terms of spending issues, there's -- I think Americans recognize there's a lot of unnecessary spending that can be cut from the budget. And we appreciate the leadership's willingness to work with us to get that done.

Go ahead.

Q There were numerous reports of U.S. troops clashing with Syrians along the border. How close is the U.S. to an undeclared war with Syria?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think if you're asking about military operations along the border there, that's best to direct to the Department of Defense. And they can provide you with the latest updates. We do have concerns about Syria. Syria needs to change its behavior. We're concerned about their behavior in a number of respects. We're concerned about their behavior when it comes to terrorists crossing that border, coming out of Syria and carrying out attacks on innocent Iraqis, or coalition forces. We're concerned about Syria's involvement in the Middle East peace process, and its support for groups that want to destabilize the region and prevent that peace process from moving forward between Israel and the Palestinians.

Q Quick follow-up. Is there any talk with Damascus to try to get them to cease and desist those activities?

MR. McCLELLAN: We make it very clear to Syria what they need to do. What they need to do is change their behavior. We've sent that message loud and clear to Syria. We've also taken some action that has been available to us through our laws to get Syria to hear that message. And we will continue to express those concerns. Syria is moving in the wrong direction from the rest of the Middle East. We see in Iraq that people in the broader Middle East want to live in freedom. We've seen it in Afghanistan; we're seeing it in Iraq. And Syria is moving in the opposite direction when it comes to their trend and their behavior.

Go ahead.

Q I'm wondering about your response to charges that you, Scott McClellan, were, in fact, spinning the media -- and as a result, the American public -- when you consistently said in the Valerie Plame case that Scooter Libby and Karl Rove had nothing to do with it, and continue to say that.

MR. McCLELLAN: I've already actually addressed this question. This is relating to an ongoing investigation.

I'm sorry, tell me your name and who you're with?

Q Maria Hinojosa, Public Television Now.

MR. McCLELLAN: Okay. Nice to -- welcome to the briefing, first of all. These questions have come up; there is an ongoing investigation. And for months and months and months, we've said that we're not going to comment on the investigation while it's ongoing. And that goes back to mid-October of 2003, when the investigation was getting underway. We said, while it's an ongoing investigation, we're not going to comment on it. We're going to do our part to cooperate as the President directed us to do, and let that investigation hopefully come to a successful conclusion, because the President wants to get to the bottom of it, I want to get to the bottom of it. We want to know what the facts are. And the best way to support the special prosecutor is to let him do his work.

Now, people that work here in this room know me very well, and I'm confident in our relationship. It's a relationship that is built on trust. And I'm confident that I have done my part to earn that trust.

Q Just one last follow up. Scott, do you appreciate having reporters in this room that hold your feet to the fire? Or is it easier to do your job when they're just, "fine, okay, sounds good"?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, I'm missing that question. I've never seen anyone say, "Okay, sounds good," in this room. We are all just doing our job. All of us in this room have a job to do, and the one thing that we share, hopefully, is that we're all doing our part to help the American people get an accurate picture of what's going on here in Washington, D.C.

Now, the media challenges me every day, and I look forward to that. It's an opportunity for us to talk about our agenda and the President's decisions and his nominees. And I'm going to vigorously defend the President's agenda, his policies, and his nominees. That is part of my job.

But I'm also here to work with each and every one of you in this room, to help the American people get an accurate account of the decisions that are being made here in Washington, D.C. And I have great respect for the people in this room that I've worked with for many years, and they're a good bunch. I have deep respect for all that they do and the hard work that they do. And nothing is ever -- nothing --

Q Okay. (Laughter.)

MR. McCLELLAN: And one final point. Nothing is ever personal in this room. We're all just doing our job, and I recognize that, and I think people in this room recognize it, as well.

And Ken is going to do his job. Go ahead, Ken.

Q Scott, simply, concerning the justices who were in with the President today, what else are they going to be doing by way of rallying support for Harriet Miers?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think they're going to Capitol Hill. You might want to check with Progress for America. I think they're sponsoring their trip here, and we'll try to get you a little bit additional information. I was just focused on their part here at the White House with the President.

But we appreciate -- we appreciate them coming to Washington and talking about Harriet Miers, the Harriet Miers that they know well and that they have great respect for, and that they recognize will make an outstanding justice on the United States Supreme Court.

Q Did Progress for America pay for their trip here?

MR. McCLELLAN: Check with them, but I understand they sponsored it. So I don't know the specifics of that, but they can probably get you that information.

Q You talked about this briefly, about Social Security reform. The President made a big deal about it at the beginning of the year, but since then he's had a lot of political trouble, and it has sort of fallen from the limelight. So has the President stopped pursuing Social Security reform?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, he'll never stop pursuing reform of Social Security. This is a high priority for the President, because the longer we wait, the more costly it becomes, and the more limited our options become. We need to save Social Security for today's seniors, and we need to strengthen it for our children and grandchildren.

Now he talked about recently, in the Rose Garden, when he was asked a question about this, how there appears to be a diminished appetite at the Capitol right now for moving forward on it at this time. But he will continue pushing it. In fact, we have been crisscrossing the United States over the course of the past year or so, talking about the importance of getting this done. And I think you've seen that the American people now recognize that there is a serious problem facing Social Security, and it requires action. And the sooner we act, the better it's going to be for all Americans.

And that's why the President has made it a priority and is going to continue pushing forward to save and strengthen Social Security. He was elected to come here to solve problems, and he recognizes that. And that's exactly what he's trying to do. He's not afraid of taking on big challenges; in fact, he believes that's part of the job, that we are here to solve the big problems for the benefit of all Americans.

Q Thank you.

MR. McCLELLAN: Thank you.

END 12:51 P.M. EDT