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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 9, 2005

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

Play Video  Video (Real)

12:27 P.M. EST

MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon, everyone. I'd like to begin by just noting a few events on the President's afternoon schedule. This afternoon, the President looks forward to meeting with four of the five business leaders that he has called on to help lead private efforts to contribute to the relief and reconstruction efforts to the areas devastated by the South Asian earthquake, particularly in Pakistan, where it caused enormous damage, devastation and loss of life. This meeting will be here in about an hour, in the Oval Office, and the President will be making some brief remarks following that.

One way that people can help is to go to the website, SouthAsiaearthquakerelief.org, and participate by contributing to these efforts, and those contributions will then go to relief organizations in the region that are on the ground helping the people who continue to have many needs that need to be met.

Then, following that, the President and Mrs. Bush look forward to welcoming His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, back to the White House. They will be meeting with His Holiness over in the Residence. This is the third meeting that the President has had here at the White House with His Holiness.

And then, following that, the President and Mrs. Bush are very much looking forward to a very proud and happy occasion this afternoon. The President will be presenting our nation's highest civil award to a number of distinguished individuals, and that will take place over in the East Room. This award is presented to people for meritorious achievement in public service, science, the arts, education, athletics, business, and other fields of endeavor. And this is a very distinguished group that will be here this afternoon. And I know they look forward to seeing those honorees here and presenting them with this award.

And with that, I'm glad to go straight to your questions.

Q Scott, some people have noted that it's more than a little ironic that a year ago, the U.S. was kicking down Ahmed Chalabi's door, and now he's being welcomed at the highest levels here in Washington. It seems to be a startling rehabilitation.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Deputy Prime Minister Chalabi is one of a number of elected leaders who have visited Washington in recent months, and we believe it's very important to work closely with the Iraqi government and their leaders to advance democracy, build prosperity, and improve security for the Iraqi people. And that's what we're doing. And Vice President Mehdi is also in Washington later this week, and he will be meeting with a number of individuals while he's here.

Q But here is a fellow who the Pentagon embraced, and then, a year later, couldn't get far enough away from, and now he seems to be -- is he back in the White House's good graces?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, it's up to the Iraqi people to choose who their leaders are. And Iraq is a sovereign government, and they are a friend of America, and we work very closely with them to help address the needs and advance democracy for the Iraqi people.

Q How would you describe the White House's attitude toward him? Are you embracing him now? Is it strictly business?

MR. McCLELLAN: It's not -- I wouldn't look at it that way at all because it's not up to us to pick the leaders of Iraq. It's up to the Iraqi people. It is a free nation, a sovereign nation, and we believe it's important to work closely with the Iraqi government to advance the common priorities for the Iraqi people. And that's what we're going to do.

Q You mentioned that the Vice President and the Secretary of State and Mr. Hadley will meet with him. How about the President? Will he meet with him at all?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, and I don't expect the President to be meeting with -- now that the December 15th elections are underway, there are going to be people running for office, and I don't really anticipate the President meeting with any candidates for office until after the December 15th elections.

Q So it's because of the elections that he will not meet with him?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I just said I don't expect him to meet with any. So, yes. I wouldn't look at it as any one person, I would look at it as overall.

Q Scott, Chalabi is, as John pointed out, more than just a leader of Iraq now. He was a guiding force in lobbying this government to go to war in Iraq. Was he right, or wrong, about what he described as how the war would go, how the U.S. would be received, and whether Saddam was building weapons of mass destruction?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, it's for you all to look at his comments; it's not for me to make those kind of judgments.

Q Why not?

MR. McCLELLAN: In terms of the intelligence, I mean, you can go and look at the --

Q What does the President think about whether he was right or wrong?

MR. McCLELLAN: Are you asking me about the intelligence?

Q I'm asking you whether you think, or the President thinks that Ahmed Chalabi was right, or wrong, on Iraq.

MR. McCLELLAN: The President thinks it was right to remove Saddam Hussein's regime from power. And that's exactly what we did. There are many people who came to the same conclusion that his regime was a threat.

Q Can I ask you on a different topic, on politics -- the Democrats are looking at the results on Election Night yesterday and saying this is an indication that the President is really unpopular and is a drag on the Republican Party now, going into midterm elections.

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sure they're going to say a lot of things like that, but I think the facts say otherwise. I don't think any thorough analysis of the election results will show that the elections were decided on anything other than local and state issues and the candidates and their agendas. That's what I think. And I think that if you look at the facts, that bears that out.

The results in the gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey, which I believe you're talking about, those are the same results that occurred in 2001, although I think they may have been smaller margins of victory for the Democratic candidates. And in Virginia, for instance, you had a candidate, Democratic candidate for governor who ran on a conservative platform, a platform that was very much out of line with the Democratic National Party.

Q Do you think that Republican candidates -- can you say now that you expect Republican candidates will embrace, will ask for, will want this President to campaign with them next year?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, they are. The President is going to be campaigning for Lieutenant Governor Steele here in just a short amount of time. And he looks forward to campaigning for those who share his compassionate conservative agenda for the American people, and who share his commitment to keeping America strong and safe and prosperous. And that's what he will do.

Q So he will help Republicans next year, he won't hurt them?

MR. McCLELLAN: He looks forward to helping Republicans, and helping Republicans who are running for office, and talking about our hopeful agenda for the American people. We are a party that is a party of ideas and solutions.

Q You're not in denial here? I mean, the President has got his lowest job approval ratings in his presidency. Do you not acknowledge that that's not, as Secretary Rumsfeld would say, not exactly helpful to Republicans?

MR. McCLELLAN: We have a proud record of accomplishment and a positive agenda for the future. And we look forward to continuing to talk about it.

Q -- the public doesn't agree with --

MR. McCLELLAN: I mean, you can get caught up in polls; we don't. Polls are snapshots in time. The President is someone who is --

Q It's quite a snapshot --

MR. McCLELLAN: But let me mention -- let's look at the facts. The President is a strong leader who addresses big challenges and who thinks long-term. That's what the American people want, someone who's going to go after the big issues facing this country, and the issues that the American people care most about, and solve those challenges.

Q So the President is not a drag on the Republican Party?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think that you see Republicans that are looking forward to the President coming to campaign for them. And we are going to support those who -- who share the President's vision for the future. That's what our party is about. And the President looks forward to helping people next year.

It's way too early to get into the 2006 elections, but, again, if you go back to the elections that took place yesterday, look at Virginia. The legislature in Virginia remains a strong Republican majority. The legislature in New Jersey, there was no change in terms of the legislature. In Virginia, you had a Democratic lieutenant governor previously, and now you have a Republican lieutenant governor. You have an attorney general that is a Republican -- or candidate that is Republican, that is leading in that race.

So I think you have to do an analysis of the elections; I understand that. But let's look at the overall facts, and I don't think you can conclude anything in terms of a larger trend beyond what I said already.

Q But, Scott, is the President disappointed --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'll come back in a second. Go ahead.

Q Today, the heads of five major oil companies are testifying in the Senate. And Senator Domenici has said that there are concerns that they are taking unfair advantage of the American people for making these record profits at a time of -- high gas prices. Why doesn't the President share this concern about the profits of these oil companies?

MR. McCLELLAN: We do share the concern of members of Congress. Members of Congress share the President's concern about high energy prices and the impact that those price are having on American families, small businesses and our economy as a whole. Energy companies can and should do more. They are seeing record-high profits and they ought to be investing those profits back into energy infrastructure, investing those profits back into expanding refining capacity and addressing the pipeline concerns.

Q What will the President do to require them to reinvest, to pressure them --

MR. McCLELLAN: The President is going to continue to urge energy companies to do their part to help address the root causes of high energy prices and put some of those profits back into the energy infrastructure. We all have a role to play. Energy companies can and should do more, and that's the message that the President will continue to say. They need to be investing in new technologies that will help us develop alternative sources of energy and help us to improve energy efficiency.

And that's what the President is going to continue -- the President has been out there speaking about this for some time. In fact, the President was out front saying when the price of oil is so high, we shouldn't be providing incentives, special tax incentives to oil companies.

Q So he'll support legislation requiring reinvestment of their profits?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President is going to continue to urge energy companies to do more to help address the root causes of high energy prices.

Q So he does support legislation?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know what legislation you're specifically referring to, but the President believes Congress also needs to continue to act and take steps to address the root causes of high energy prices. We led the way and passed a comprehensive national energy strategy to help address this issue. It's not something that -- the President said at the time, it's not something that is going to bring down prices overnight, because it took us a while to get into this situation; it's going to take us a little while to get out. But in the meantime, there is much more that energy companies can be doing, and they should be doing, and that's what we'll continue to emphasize.

Q May I ask you on another topic, quickly? Yesterday, when we were asking about the ethics briefings, you said that staff members who get security clearance do have to sign information when they go through their briefings. You also said that you'd be glad to provide us with information that's not classified regarding these briefings. Would you provide to the media copies of the documents that senior staff have to sign when they agree --

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know what information is public relating to those briefings. I'll be glad to look into it and we'll get back to you and provide you what information we can.

Q Scott, on the election, Corzine is casting his win as a victory over Bush-Rove. Are you concerned that the leak investigation is having a political fallout? Is that an indication that it is?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, we've expressed our view on the investigation. Our view is that it's a serious matter and that we are going to continue to cooperate fully with the investigation.

In terms of elections, I think I just expressed our views in terms of the elections. And this President is going to continue to lead and continue to act to address the priorities that the American people care about. That means helping the people in the Gulf Coast region; that means addressing high energy prices and moving forward on new initiatives to help reduce energy prices; that means moving forward and winning the war on terrorism and succeeding in Iraq. Those are the priorities the American people care about, and that's what we're going to continue to focus on.

If others want to engage in politics, that's their business. But the President has an agenda that he is working to implement, and it's an agenda that will improve the quality of life for all Americans.

Q Scott, on the elections, what does the Republican Party have to do for a change in 2006, to gain the major seats that are up for grabs in 2006?

MR. McCLELLAN: What do you mean? We have to continue to offer a hopeful and positive agenda for America's future. That's what we have been doing, and that's what we continue to do. We look forward to discussing the differences when it comes to how we confront the priorities and challenges facing the American people.

Q So do you think that they were doing -- the Republicans who were running in these races, particularly in Virginia and New Jersey, that they were doing these things that you were saying, and just lost?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think they were doing exactly what I said. These elections -- I think if you look at the facts -- were based on state and local issues, and based on the candidates and their views and their agenda. And if you look at Virginia, as I pointed out, the lieutenant governor's race was won by a Republican. That's a change. The governor's race stayed the same, it's the same result as 2001. And in New Jersey, you have 300,000 more Democrats that are registered to vote than Republicans. And so New Jersey, for a long time, has been leaning Democratic.

Q But, Scott, the President campaigned for Kilgore. I mean, is he disappointed at Kilgore's loss?

MR. McCLELLAN: He did support his candidacy, and he supported the candidacy of the lieutenant governor, and he supported the candidacy of the attorney general, and the lieutenant governor won. The President congratulates all the winners, including the two newly elected governors in New Jersey and Virginia. And the President --

Q Has he reached out to Kilgore? Has he offered his condolences?

MR. McCLELLAN: We just offered our congratulations -- I don't have any updates on the President's calls -- but offered our congratulations to those who won. The President looks forward to working with those who won to help keep America safe and keep America prosperous. And that's exactly what he'll do. We need to continue to take steps to improve our public schools; we need to continue to take steps to keep our economy growing and reduce high energy prices. And all of us have a role to do in that.

Q Is he disappointed in Kilgore's loss?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he congratulates the winners. That's the way I would express it. The President campaigned for Jerry Kilgore, he campaign for Lieutenant Governor-Elect Bolling, and he campaigned for the attorney general candidate, as well.

Q What does he have to offer in terms of political capital? When Republicans look to the President, their own 2006 re-election bids, what kind of agenda or --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the Republican Party, I think, has a shared agenda of addressing the biggest challenges facing this country. I know there's a tendency to look ahead a year from now. We're going to focus on addressing the priorities the American people care most about. That's what we will continue to do. And I think that's what the American people expect us to do.

The Democratic Party has no vision and no agenda to offer the American people at the national level. All they can do is say what they're against. They have not offered any sort of positive agenda for the American people, and certainly, they have not embraced the agenda that was outlined by the gubernatorial candidate in Virginia when he ran supporting gun rights, and supporting tax cuts, and supporting family values, and advocating for abstinence education.

Q So you think the President helped the Kilgore campaign, ultimately?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President was glad to go and do his part. I think that the election was decided based on state and local issues, and based on the candidates and their agendas. That's what I think. And I think that if you look at the facts, that points that out, as well, because those campaigns were run based on the issues that I pointed out, and based on those candidates' views and their agenda. And he is pleased to see that the Lieutenant Governor is now going to be a Republican in Virginia.

Q His presence was discounted, basically, he didn't hurt or help Kilgore?

MR. McCLELLAN: He was glad to go in there and do his part to help in that campaign. And he congratulates Tim Kaine for winning, and congratulates Governor-elect Corzine on his victory. And he congratulates Lieutenant Governor Bolling on his victory. And he congratulates all the other candidates that won.

Q Scott, I have a couple questions related to the White House ethics guidelines. But, first of all, I have a follow-up with the windfall profits. Senator Grassley's idea is to use excess oil profits, up to 10 percent, directly toward -- again, voluntarily -- directly toward the LIHEAP program. And is the administration in favor of that?

MR. McCLELLAN: The administration is in favor of energy companies doing their part to help address high energy prices. And they ought to be taking some of those profits and putting them back into research and development and technology and investing in our infrastructure needs. They ought to be supporting people in need. That's what the President believes. In terms of the windfall tax -- windfall profits tax, I think that we previously expressed our views. Secretary Bodman just talked about that last week.

Q With respect to the ethics guidelines, I understand there's a document that was, I presume, being used, prepared by the Office of Government Ethics for the briefings. And I have just a few questions, if you could clarify this. Under 18 U.S. Code Section 2, would public disclosure of classified information constitute an offense against the United States government?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's for the authorities to determine and our legal system to determine.

Q Okay. And then under -- again, these are all -- documents.

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, Paula, I haven't gone back and read that like you have. It's all publicly available information. What the President believes is that the leaking of classified information is a very serious matter and it ought to be taken seriously. That's what the President believes. And all of us here at the White House understand what is expected of us. It's expected that we focus on the people's priorities and it's expected that we adhere to the highest ethical standards.

And in terms of these refresher briefings that our ethics council is holding, we have held ethics briefings since the very beginning of this administration. In fact, we do annual ethics briefings, and we do other briefings for staff on a continuing basis relating to ethics guidelines. It's something that we have always taken very seriously.

Q The reason I ask is because -- if you'll forgive me for a minute -- under this particular code section -- section two, principles -- it says that, "Whoever commits an offense against the United States or aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces, or procures its commission is punishable as a principal;" and secondly, "Whoever willfully causes an act to be done, which is directly performed by him or another, would be an offense against the United States, is punishable as a principal." And then, I'll give the other --

MR. McCLELLAN: Okay, thank you. That's been put into the record. Now, what are you trying to suggest?

Q I'm not trying to suggest anything. I'm asking to clarify these sections --

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think they need clarifying. They're very -- they're stated right there, available to the public.

Q Okay, so -- would any government official involved in the leaking of classified information, or in any way involved in making false statements about that, would they be in violation of 18 U.S. Section 1001, which -- and I'll end here --

MR. McCLELLAN: Paula, let me --

Q -- let me just --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, Paula, let me just add -- let me just stop you right there. This is asking a question relating to an ongoing investigation and legal proceeding. That is a very serious matter. We need to let that investigation continue and let that legal proceeding continue. There is a legal system that is in place. There is a presumption of innocence that is looking at one individual, and there is an investigation continuing on other matters. And we are going to do our part to cooperate with the special counsel in that matter, as we have done.

Q This has nothing to do with the special counsel. This has everything to do with the Ethics of Government Act. And for the record, I would just like to read --

MR. McCLELLAN: I think, for the record, people can go and look at this on our website. And for the record, this is being asked in the context of an ongoing investigation and legal proceeding, and I've already indicated to you that we're not going to have further comment on it while it is continuing. If you want to --

Q I would just like to read, for the record --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- go and read that, you're welcome to do that. But I think other people in this room would like to proceed forward with other questions that they have.

Q If I can take permission from the other people in this room, may I please read this one section? Does anyone have any objection?

Q Yes, I don't think we're getting anywhere.

Q Well, that's not the point.

MR. McCLELLAN: Okay, there. Thank you.

Q That's not the point.

MR. McCLELLAN: Carl, do you have a question?

Q Wait a minute, let the majority -- let this nice lady speak.

MR. McCLELLAN: That's all publicly available information.

Q I know. She just has one more --

MR. McCLELLAN: Do you have a question? She has to give a question.

Q She has just one more.

Q I asked if it was -- I asked --

MR. McCLELLAN: Let's go to the question. I mean, we can all go and look at that on the website.

Q Well, fine, but I'll save some time. "Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative or judicial branch of the government of the United States, knowingly and willfully, (1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device, a material fact, (2), makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation, or (3), makes or uses any false writing or document, knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious or fraudulent statement or entry."

MR. McCLELLAN: It's been put into public record.

Q Thank you.

MR. McCLELLAN: Carl, go ahead.

Q Last night's elections again. Does the White House really not see any cautionary lessons from last night? Or are you viewing this entirely as a situation normal, status quo, nothing to be learned?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think we are viewing it very much as status quo. It is the same results as from 2001. In terms of the two gubernatorial elections, there's no change.

Q And is there not a risk then that those Republicans who have been yearning for a more aggressive or more effective White House political thrust are now told, ah, don't worry about it, last night, we're just going forward with a losing strategy?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry. I don't know who said that.

Q I'm suggesting that there are Republicans across the country who would have liked to have seen a victory in Virginia and New Jersey, and that your assertion that, ah, it's a status quo --

MR. McCLELLAN: There's a Republican in the White House that would have liked to have seen victories in those two states.

Q Well, you were asked earlier if he was disappointed and didn't say that.

MR. McCLELLAN: We wanted to -- we supported the candidacy of both Republican candidates. Of course, we wanted to see them win. But the people of those two states have spoken, and they've spoken in the same -- they spoke in the way that they spoke in 2001.

Q Scott, two questions. One on elections in Virginia. The President always supported the rights and cause of immigrants toward this country, but Mr. Kilgore had a campaign against the immigrants, and all the immigrants in Virginia, they had a campaign against him. So you think this is one of the reasons that maybe Mr. Kilgore -- because of his anti-immigrant --

MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't done that in-depth of analysis of the electorate in Virginia, but I think the electorate in Virginia has spoken. And they've spoken on the governor's race, they've spoken on the lieutenant governor's race, and they've spoken on the attorney general's race, although that is yet to be decided. And they also spoke on the legislature. And the legislature remains a strong Republican majority.

Q Second question is that yesterday Secretary Rice released the report on global religious freedom and -- around the globe. And Saudi Arabia was one of the countries that still doesn't respect religious freedom. Yesterday also, on Capitol Hill, Senator Kyl and Senator Specter and Senator Leahy were having a briefing on the Saudi Arabia war on terrorism, and they are saying that Saudi Arabia still finances the terrorists around the globe, and also there is no religious freedom, and the persecutions in Saudi Arabia. So where do we stand now as far as --

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me point out in this religious freedom report, the United States speaks very clearly when it comes to the values that we believe are universal and the values that we strongly support. The President made it very clear in some interviews yesterday we strongly support religious freedom. And when there are countries that are not allowing for religious freedom within their borders, we are going to point that out. The report noted a number of countries of particular concern. And we think that it's important to call attention to these matters. And that's -- we do that through this report. We do that in public; we do that in private with leaders. And the President will continue to speak out about the importance of religious freedom, as well as other values that we believe are universal.

Q Concerning China, today the Dalai Lama is meeting with President, and I'm sure he has concerns in his country that he want to see -- Tibet also to be respected, and religious freedom.

MR. McCLELLAN: That's right. We've spoken out very clearly about our views on Tibet, as well, and the people of Tibet.

Q One more on the election. As a proud Virginia voter, I just wanted to point out that I, and many of my neighbors, were absolutely appalled at the horrendous tone taken by Kilgore. I mean -- and in the Post, said that, too; they said, Kilgore tried to play on voters' fears and failed. He failed --

MR. McCLELLAN: That's been pointed out, as well.

Q Do you have any thoughts on that? Will you give that instruction out to --

MR. McCLELLAN: I think the thoughts that I expressed are the views that we hold.

Q Scott, a new round of talks has begun to try and force North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. Does the President have any reason to believe that this round will be more successful than previous ones?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that the way I would describe this round is that it's a three-day period of talks to prepare the way for the next round of talks, which will likely take place next month. We were able to take an important step at the last round of talks and reach an agreement on important principles. We all have a shared goal of a nuclear weapons-free Peninsula. All the parties to the six-party talks believe it's important for North Korea to end all its nuclear weapons programs, dismantle those programs, and do so in a verifiable way. And that's what we're working to achieve.

And Ambassador Hill, our Assistant Secretary of State, is participating in these meetings and having discussions with our partners in the region about how we can move forward on that agreement. But these meetings that are taking place over this three-day period are really just to prepare the way for the next round of talks next month.

Go ahead, Les.

Q Scott, The Washington Times quotes President Jimmy Carter, during his recent trip to Washington, as telling reporters, quote, "I have never felt that any abortion should be committed. I think each abortion is the result of a series of errors." And my first of two questions, does the President agree or disagree with Mr. Carter?

MR. McCLELLAN: There are many Americans who share the President's view that we ought to be building a culture of life and taking practical steps to reduce the number of abortions in this country. That means promoting abstinence programs, abstinence education programs. That means moving forward on legislation like the ban on partial-birth abortions. And that's what the President has advocated and that's what he will continue to do. There are a number of practical steps where we can all work together to help reduce the number of abortions in America.

Q And then President Carter also said, quote, "I've never been convinced that Jesus Christ would approve abortion." And my question: Does the President believe that a 13-year-old victim of gang rape or incest by her father or mother should be denied the right to abortion because he believes Jesus opposes all abortion?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President has made his views very clear about the sanctity of life and promoting a culture of life --

Q I wonder if you could clarify on this issue.

MR. McCLELLAN: The President is a pro-life President.

Go ahead. Roger, go ahead.

Q Scott, do you have any sort of tally on the amount of U.S. aid that's going to Pakistan for the earthquake relief victims?

MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, I think the President will be talking about that in his remarks. I didn't bring that specific number with me, but there's been a significant amount of aid provided. But it's not only that. Look at the resources we've provided. The military is still on the ground in Pakistan helping to provide relief to people in need. There is a military hospital that has been established by our men and women in uniform. We're grateful for what our men and women in uniform do. We're grateful for what volunteers are doing through relief organizations -- American volunteers. There are a number of ways that we're helping. It's not just the financial resources, but it's also the resource -- the people resources that we're providing.

Q You mentioned four out of five CEOs that will be here. Who is the one that won't be here?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'll get you that list. I didn't bring the list with me. Glad to get you that.

Q There was a hearing this morning before the Senate Judiciary Committee about cameras in the courtroom. Will the President support any move to bring about more widespread use of cameras in the courtroom?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'll see what he said on that in the past.

Q Thank you.

MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead.

Q Thank you, Scott. North Korea doesn't have any freedom of religion and any form of human rights. South Korean government doesn't mention anything about those conditions in North Korea. Will these issues be addressed at the separate summit meeting between President Bush and President Roh Moo-hyun in Pusan?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let's let the meeting take place. The President looks forward to seeing President Roh next week. That's who you asked about, correct? And these are always issues that we discuss. And the President publicly and privately talks about his concerns when it comes to the human rights situation in countries like North Korea. That is something we will continue to speak out about.

The President looks forward to the trip. We have a very good relationship with South Korea and with President Roh, and these are opportunities for us to strengthen our bilateral relationship and talk about regional issues of concern and talk about ways we can work together to address these issues.

Q Scott, did the President and First Lady cast ballots in the Texas election yesterday?

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me double-check that. I forgot to check with him, but I'll double-check that.

Q And can you ask how they voted on the constitutional amendment --

MR. McCLELLAN: They tend to, all the time, so --

Q Can you find out how they voted on the constitutional amendment on same sex marriage?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think the President has very much expressed his view when it comes to the sanctity of marriage and protecting the sanctity of marriage.

Q So if he did vote, he voted for that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, if the President wants to say more about private votes that he cast, he's welcome to do that. But I think you very much know his position on the issue. And I'll check on it. I have not checked on that; I will be glad to.

Go ahead, Peter.

Q Scott, has there been any legal or ethical determination from the Counsel's Office on whether White House staffers can contribute to the newly established Lewis Libby Legal Defense Fund?

MR. McCLELLAN: People, including White House staffers, can contribute as individuals to whatever causes they so choose. I know of no prohibition on individuals.

Q So contributions to that would apply to the highest ethical standards that you mentioned yesterday, and again today?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that there's a First Amendment right guaranteed under our Constitution for people as individuals to support causes of their choosing.

Q So no ethical conflicts?

MR. McCLELLAN: I know of no legal prohibition.

Q Okay, thanks.

Q Scott, yesterday you assured us of the importance of human rights and democracy, especially where China is related. However, yesterday's interview of the President with some of those media from those countries, he didn't really mention those issues. Do you -- is this because he didn't get the -- he didn't think the people in those countries don't have --

MR. McCLELLAN: What countries?

Q China -- don't have the right to hear about this, or --

MR. McCLELLAN: I think he talked about the importance of human rights in those interviews. I'll go back and pull those transcripts. I was in the print roundtable with him and he talked about the importance of promoting human rights and human dignity. So I think he did.

Q In some of the interviews, special interviews, he didn't --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I'm not sure. I mean, I'm not sure that some of the questions maybe came up in some of the TV interviews, if that's what you're asking. But in the roundtable he participated in with the print reporters, he very much did talk about what is a high priority for the United States, and that is promoting human rights and human dignity for all.

Q Thank you.

MR. McCLELLAN: All right, thank you all.

END 1:00 P.M. EDT