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For Immediate Release
November 30, 2005
Press Briefing by Scott McClellan
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
11:42 A.M. EST
MR. MCCLELLAN: Good afternoon, everyone -- or, good morning, still, I guess. It's good to be back in Washington, after all the travel of recent. Let me just mention a couple of things at the top, and then I'll be glad to go to your questions.
The President was pleased to address the midshipmen at the Naval Academy earlier today, and talk to the American people about our strategy for victory in Iraq. As the President said, this is a time of danger for America and the world. We remain a nation at war. And the President was pleased to talk about our clear and comprehensive strategy for victory in Iraq. It's important for the American people to have a clear understanding of our strategy, how we see the enemy, how we define victory and how we achieve it.
And that's why today the President was glad to also release our National Strategy for Victory in Iraq. We encourage the American people to go to our website, whitehouse.gov, and read through it. It details our plan for succeeding in Iraq. It lays out the stakes involved. It talks about the enemy that we face and it talks about the progress that we're making.
Secondly, I'd like to mention that the President in his remarks at the event coming up will talk a little bit today about the latest economic news that came out. The revised third quarter GDP numbers came out today and showed that our economy grew at 4.3 percent in the third quarter. This is the latest in a series of clear indicators that shows our economy is exceeding expectations. Despite the difficult challenges that our economy has been through, our workers and our economy are showing great resiliency in the face of those challenges. And the President will talk about that in his remarks.
As a reminder, we've created more than 4.2 million jobs since May of 2003. The unemployment rate remains below the averages of the '70s, '80s and '90s, at 5 percent. And earlier this week you heard other good economic news on consumer confidence being significantly up and new homes sales reaching record levels.
And with that, I will be glad to go to your questions.
Q How is the Secretary of State going to explain the cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of some of our combatants -- enemies, so-called.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, we disagree with the premise of your question, because we are a nation that --
Q There is an uproar in Europe.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we are nation that is engaged in a global war on terrorism. And there are many partners in that global war on terrorism. But as we carry out the war on terrorism, we act in a way that is consistent with our laws and consistent with our values and consistent with our international obligations. And the Secretary talked about that in an interview the other day.
As I understand, they have received a letter from Secretary Straw, from the United Kingdom -- or Foreign Minister Straw, I should say, from the United Kingdom -- and they will be responding to that letter in due course.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that Steve Hadley talked about this at his recent briefing here in this room, just a couple of weeks ago. And he talked about the difficult issues that we have to address. And he talked about how we're working very closely with congressional leaders to address those issues.
Q I asked a simple question, Scott. Is the President going to veto military spending if there is no exemption on the ban?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think the statement of administration policy that we put out was that if such a step were taken that would weaken our position in the global war on terrorism, and the ability of the President to effectively carry out that war on terrorism, then his advisors would recommend a veto. I think that is what our statement of administration policy said.
Q Scott, on the President's speech, he talked a lot of numbers in terms of Iraqi battalions. As you know, the generals on the ground, when they went up to Congress said that there was one battle-ready Iraqi battalion. The President also alluded to that. Do you know if there's been any change -- not battle-ready, but one Iraqi battalion that was capable of fighting on its own -- do you know if there's been any change in status to that number --
MR. McCLELLAN: Completely?
Q Completely. Are there more?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think I might want to leave it to our commanders to talk more about it. But I think the President outlined it very clearly for the American people, about the progress that is being made by Iraqi security forces. The Iraqi security forces are more and more taking the lead in the fight. Iraqi security forces are increasing their capability and as they grow in capability and experience, then that will help change our posture on the ground in Iraq, as well, and will allow our troops to focus more on the training of those forces and focus more on going after the terrorists.
Q So you don't know if there's been any change in status in the number of Iraqi civilians who might, on their own --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the Pentagon just briefed yesterday, and they talked about and they outlined the number of battalions that are taking the lead in the fight. The President talked about it in his remarks today --
Q -- should be taking the lead in being able to --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- he talked about how some 40 battalions are now taking the lead in the fight.
And you have to look at all that when you're measuring the progress being made by the Iraqi security forces. The Iraqi security forces are more and more stepping up to the plate and taking the fight to the enemy. And I think to give the American people an accurate picture of the progress that's being made, you can't just narrow it down and look at it in the terms that you were bringing up at beginning.
Q Scott, first, a question about money. Will the President seek additional money for reconstruction, to the tune of $3.9 billion?
MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, I talked about this with some of your colleagues a little bit earlier today. We are working closely with the Department of Defense to look at what needs will be needed over the course of the coming months and year. As we've indicated, we will be moving forward on a supplemental next year, and those are discussions that we're having with the Department of Defense about what they will need.
The President has made it very clear that our troops are going to have all the resources they need to complete their mission. And one important element of completing the mission is the training and equipping of Iraqi security forces. But at this point, there hasn't been any formal request made of the White House. So it's too early to, I think, get into those --
Q Are you knocking down that number, is that number --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm not saying that; I just think it's too early to get into those numbers because those are discussions we're having now with the Department of Defense about what the needs will be.
Q Secondly, about the speech, couldn't people fairly ask why it is that the President hasn't had a strategy for victory before November 2005?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's inaccurate.
Q Okay. Well, then, what is this document, other than spin --
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me mention --
Q -- in a political document? This looks like something you would put out --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, it's a --
Q -- in the 2004 campaign. Is that not a fair criticism?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think it's absolutely unfair.
MR. McCLELLAN: And let me tell you why. First of all, this is a strategy document that the American people can go and look at. They can go to our website at whitehouse.gov, pull it up, and read through it and see what our strategy is, and see -- or hear more about the progress that we're making on the different elements of that strategy. There are three tracks to the strategy: the security side, the political side, and the economic side. So we have a comprehensive and clear strategy for achieving victory in Iraq, and I think that's what the American people want. And then our troops can return home with the honor that they deserve. The President talked about that in his remarks.
But we have been pursuing this strategy since early 2003. What this is, is an unclassified version for the American people and others to go and look at and see the strategy that we have in place. There have been some that have tried to suggest that we don't have a plan. I know some congressional members of Congress have -- Democratic members of Congress have suggested that, and they are flat-out wrong. And not only that, but they are deeply irresponsible to make that suggestion, particularly when our commanders have briefed those congressional leaders on our strategy and the progress that we're making.
And in terms of your question about -- I think you said a PR document or something to that effect --
Q Something akin to what you sent out during the 2004 campaign -- we've seen a lot of these things.
MR. McCLELLAN: The President has made it clear that our highest priority is winning the war on terrorism. Iraq is central to winning the war on terrorism. And it's important to keep the American people informed about our strategy and about the progress that we're making. It's important to speak to the troops, like he did today at the Naval Academy, and let them know that they our unwavering commitment and support.
And so the President today released this document so that the American people can go and see what our strategy is and have a clear understanding of how we're going about achieving victory on the ground in Iraq.
Q Just one final point on this. Has the President made a determination that it's important, in addition to dealing with domestic politics, to send a clear message to the Iraqi government that the U.S. commitment is not open-ended? Does he think it's high time for that if Iraqi forces are ultimately going to take more responsibility?
MR. McCLELLAN: He thinks it's important to let the Iraqi people know that we are firmly committed to completing the mission and helping them build a -- build an inclusive, democratic state that is able to defend itself from the threats that it faces. And that's what we are working to do. That's what it spells out in this document that you have there in front of you. And we encourage the American people to take a look at it.
Let me go here to Caren.
Q Two questions. First of all, do you have a time frame yet for the Iraq supplemental? When is that request going to be made? Is it likely to be before the budget?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I don't. I don't have any time frame put on that at this point.
Q Okay. My second question is, you've talked about the progress being made in training the Iraqi forces, but why is the violence not declining?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that the military -- that our military commanders have talked about the situation on the ground. And I think when you're in a war, you have to be flexible and be able to adapt to conditions on the ground. And that's one thing the President emphasized in his remarks today, that we are adapting and changing to the conditions on the ground, we are adapting and changing to the enemy that we face. And, in fact, as he cited -- I think he quoted General Casey -- General Casey said, not only do we want to adapt and change the enemy, we want to get out in front of them and stay ahead of the enemy.
And that's what our military is working to do, and our troops are doing a great job when it comes to that. But it's not only our troops. It's helping to train and equip the Iraqi security forces so that they can more and more take the fight to the enemy.
In terms of the situation on the ground, I'm going to leave it to our commanders who are in the best position -- our commanders on the ground -- to talk about the situation and the violence. Now, the President talked about the enemy that we face in Iraq, and he said there are really three different categories to that enemy. He talked about the rejectionists, and he talked about the regime loyalists, and he talked about the terrorists. And the terrorists may be the smallest group, but they are the most lethal group. And they seek to break our will. And they can't break our will. They will fail. We will prevail in this central front in the war on terrorism. It is critical that we succeed in Iraq. It is critical to prevailing in the broader war on terrorism and transforming a dangerous region of the world. And the President talked about that in his remarks today.
Q Do you consider all --
MR. McCLELLAN: But I'd leave it to, again, our military commanders to talk about the level of violence. And I think they did that yesterday in the briefing with Secretary Rumsfeld and General Pace.
Q But could you talk about it in the context of the possibility that there could be a draw-down of some of the forces? I mean, isn't there a risk that if you go ahead and do that, that the violence will then --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, remember, the enemies of freedom in Iraq, the terrorists have every step of the way tried to stop the advance of democracy in Iraq. Every step of the way they have failed. The Iraqi people have shown, through their courage and determination, that they are determined to live freely and determined to build a brighter future and determined to defeat those who seek to derail the transition to democracy.
There has been great progress made in just two-and-a-half years. When you think about over the course of history and look at the progress that's been made in Iraq, that is tremendous -- the progress that they've made on the political front and the economic front and security front is really tremendous.
Now, there are difficulties and challenges that remain, and there are going to be tough days ahead, the President talked about that in his remarks. But what we're doing is continuing to support the Iraqi people as they take more and more control of their future in each of those areas. And that's what they're doing. And they are determined to defeat those who want to derail that transition to democracy.
They have an election coming up in just a few weeks, and that's why the President is talking to the American people about the different elements of our strategy and how we're moving forward to achieve victory in Iraq.
Q Scott, what are your thoughts about those who are saying that it's not about the advance for democracy, it's about going to many of these governments or countries that believe in the jihadist reaction and dealing with them --
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think there are many countries that believe in that.
Q Right, but this is what they're saying, it's not
MR. McCLELLAN: There may be a few.
Q This is what some of the critics are saying, that we would never win militarily. What are your thoughts about that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that we've talked about it. We're there to help the Iraqi people build their security forces and be able to defend themselves, and be able to defeat the enemy in Iraq. And that's exactly what we are working to do. I'm not sure what your question is.
Q It's going back to the terrorists, I guess. You're saying the terrorists are the smallest group, but most lethal. Is it really about Iraq, or dealing with the terrorists and changing the mind set of this jihadist mentality, instead of --
MR. McCLELLAN: It's about defeating the hateful ideology that they espouse. We have defeated hateful ideologies over the course of history. And the President talked about in his remarks -- he talked about the Cold War and he talked about World War II and how we defeated hateful ideologies before.
We are in a struggle against those who espouse an ideology of repression and violence and hatred. And they will be defeated. This is about the broader war on terrorism. This is about spreading freedom and hope in the broader Middle East to defeat that ideology and lay the foundations of peace for our children and grandchildren.
Q Okay. Militarily, you are saying that we cannot defeat what you consider one of the most lethal groups, a small group of terrorists. How can there be victory with -- how can we --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the terrorists -- and that's what's spelled out in our document; I would encourage you to go and read it, how we define victory and how we achieve victory, it spells it out very clearly in the document -- and --
Q What pillar --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q What pillar deals with this most lethal group, to defeat them for victory?
MR. McCLELLAN: Go and read the document. I mean, it spells out the different pillars, or objectives, that we're working to achieve, in terms of our strategy.
In terms of what you're bringing up, I think you're referring to the fact that the terrorists have made Iraq a central front in the war on terrorism. The stakes are high in Iraq. The terrorists know that when we prevail in Iraq, it'll be a significant blow to their ambitions. It will be a significant victory for us in the global war on terrorism. And, as the President pointed out in his remarks, a free Iraq will help inspire others in the broader Middle East to move forward on freedom and democracy. And free societies are peaceful societies. That's what's important for everyone to understand, that we are working to lay the foundations of peace for our children and grandchildren, and to defeat the ideology of hatred that the terrorists espouse.
Q But as you defeat the ideology, you're still dealing with a lethal group. How do you do that militarily?
MR. McCLELLAN: How do we do that militarily? We take the fight to them and we stay on the offensive. And that's exactly what we're doing. We are bringing the terrorists to justice and we are working closely, side-by-side with Iraqi security forces and supporting the Iraqi security forces as they take more of the lead in the fight with -- inside Iraq.
Q Scott, in the document you all write, "It's not realistic to expect a fully functioning democracy able to defeat its enemies three years after Saddam is finally removed from power." Does that mean, then, that the administration now believes that it was unrealistic in its own expectations three years ago? Or, did, in fact, you always expect the war to be as intense as this point, three years later -- almost three years later, as it is?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, it's a time of war and Iraq is the central front in the global war on terrorism. And you have to be flexible and be able to adapt. That's what the President was emphasizing in his remarks, that as conditions have changed, we have adapted. We have a dynamic strategy that is in place. Our tactics are flexible and we adjust those tactics as needed. So I think that's one thing that is important to listen to, in terms of what the President said today in his remarks.
Now, in terms of the progress that's been made in just two-and-a-half years, I think that there's been real and tremendous progress that has been made on the ground in Iraq. And it's -- people should not ignore the progress that's been made. And we understand that people are seeing violent images on their screen. These are terrorists who are seeking to intimidate and spread chaos and shake our will. They want us to cut and run. The President made it very clear that we will never cut and run in the face of terrorism. We will continue to stay on the offensive and take the fight to them until we defeat them.
Q But when you say here that it's not realistic, it seems to suggest that people had unrealistic expectations. And I'm trying to figure out what was the source of these unrealistic expectations? Was it something --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, look, I think that over the course of history, we're going to look back and look at the decisions that were made and the steps that were taken over the course of the time in Iraq. And we'll let history be the judge of those different aspects. But what's important is when you're at war, is that it's important to learn from your experiences and be able to adapt in order to prevail.
Q And then the last question on this is, if it's not realistic to expect this in three years, when is it realistic to expect this?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you shouldn't have arbitrary timetables when you're talking about achieving victory when you're engaged in a war. The President made that very clear. It sends the wrong message to the enemy; it sends the wrong message to our troops.
The timetable should be based on conditions on the ground. It's a conditions-based withdrawal that we are pursuing. And that will be based on the commanders on the ground.
Q But we're not setting an artificial timetable --
MR. McCLELLAN: And as the President said, it takes time and patience as you move forward on building a lasting democracy. And that's one of the goals that we're working to achieve, is help the Iraqi people put in place the institutions for a lasting democracy to emerge. And I think that if you compare it to the course of history, they have made real progress in a short amount of time.
Q But when you say, it's not realistic, without setting an artificial timetable --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the political milestones that are in place, and the Iraqi people are meeting those political milestones time and time again. They are meeting those political milestones here in just a couple of weeks -- December 15th -- the Iraqi people will, again, go back to the polls, this time to choose a permanent representative government. And that will be a significant milestone in Iraq's future.
Q You seem to suggest we know what's realistic, and I'm trying to explore what you think is --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not sure that that's accurate. But I'm glad you're reading through this. We encourage the American people to read through it. And I think you have to look at the whole document --
Q -- suggests people who had any expectations of the war being in better shape today than it is, they're unrealistic. And I'm trying to see what is realistic.
MR. McCLELLAN: I think it would be wrong to have an expectation that you're going to have a lasting democracy in place in just two-and-a-half years. But it is realistic to -- well, I would say that the fact that the Iraqi people have made this progress in just two -- I'm sorry, able to defeat in just two-and-a-half years is something that is quite remarkable.
Were you were saying, able to defeat?
Q No, I'm just saying there was -- the phrase says, it's not realistic to expect a fully functioning democracy able to defeat its enemies in three years. And I'm just trying to explore, then, what our expectations are. I think the public is looking for, maybe not necessarily a specific time table --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the expectations I think --
Q -- but what should we find realistic --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that's spelled out in the document, and people can go and read through that document. I mean, we can go and sit through and look through each different aspect of the document. I'll be glad to do that. It talks about the progress that's being made to meet some of the benchmarks that are in place for the political process.
Q Two more Middle East-related questions. I know you've been asked before about the so-called al Jazzier memo, but Europeans are making quite a big deal about it. Can you assure them that even if the President did say when he was elected said he was doing that in jest?
MR. McCLELLAN: Can I assure them what?
Q That if the President really did make those comments, he was doing so in jest?
MR. McCLELLAN: Make what comments?
Q About allegedly bombing al Jazeera --
MR. McCLELLAN: Any such notion that we would engage in that kind of activity is just absurd.
Q Well, do you know if the comments were made?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know what comments you're referring to. I haven't seen any comments quoted.
Q Somebody said that they had a memo, or that they took notes during --
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me just repeat for you, Connie. Any such notion that America would do something like that is absurd.
Q They bomb them in Afghanistan then -- their office.
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry? Whose offices? The terrorist offices.
Q We bombed their office in Afghanistan, and killed their -- some of their people in --
MR. McCLELLAN: And the military talked about that. What are you suggesting? I hope you're not suggesting that they're targeting civilians, because that's just flat-out wrong.
Q On the al Zarqawi family members who have banded against him, do you know if the United States is helping them now try to locate and find and capture their relatives?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not going to get into talking about any intelligence activities if that's what -- if you're asking questions relating to that.
Q Did the Iraqi government participate in the drafting of this national strategy --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think this is an interagency document. I don't know if people had -- obviously people have conversations with others. But this -- the strategy has been in place since early 2003. This is an unclassified version of our strategy. It's an interagency document.
Q When you say it's unclassified, you're not referring to -- but you're not saying it's a declassified version --
MR. McCLELLAN: No.
Q -- it's not as though there's a classified version, this is something you created for the American people?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there are classified aspects to our strategy. This is the unclassified version of our strategy that we've been pursuing for some time now.
Q Okay. And what does the administration and the Iraqi government expect to happen vis- -vis insurrection violence after the December 15th elections?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that the terrorists are a determined enemy. They are a lethal and deadly enemy. They are going to continue to try to derail the transition to democracy. I think that it's best to leave it to our commanders to talk about the situation on the ground and what they see going forward. And they've talked about those very issues. They're the ones who are in the best position to talk about the nature of the enemy that we're facing and what they see going forward. And so I would leave it to them.
Q In terms of it being an important part of the political process, however, the administration is not suggesting to the American people that they should expect there to be a change on the ground in terms of the situation there?
MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, one thing that the President talked about was the integrated approach of all three elements of the strategy. We have very good coordination going on, on the ground in Iraq with the Iraqi government between our different leaders in Iraq, both civilian and military. And as we make progress on one, it helps us make progress on the other. And the President talked about that in his remarks; he talks about it in our national strategy document, as well.
So it's important to continue to move forward on the political process because that's a way to help defeat the enemy that we face in Iraq. And the President talked about how many of the Sunni rejectionists, one element of the enemy that we face, can be persuaded to come into the political process. And, in fact, you see more and more that previously were not participating in the political process. Now they are.
Q At the beginning of the war, we were told that Iraqi oil would help offset some of the costs to the American taxpayers, which didn't happen. But recently the Iraqi government has said that they will be pumping more oil next year. Could you tell me how much we're -- how much revenues we're receiving from Iraqi oil right now?
MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, it spells it out in the document that we released today. It talks about where we are in terms of the amount of oil being produced in Iraq, or where the Iraqi people are in terms of that. They're in control of that. They have a ministry that's in control of their energy sector.
Q Does it give an amount?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q Does it give a dollar amount of how much?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I'm not sure that it does that -- how much revenue is coming in?
Q Yes, I'm wondering how much --
MR. McCLELLAN: It talks about how much is being produced now and --
Q -- money is being paid to the U.S. to help offset our military --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- what the expectations are going forward.
Q Could tell me how much we're getting now? Are we getting any money from the Iraqi --
MR. McCLELLAN: I didn't bring any of that information with me. I think you can probably direct that toward our civilian leaders in Iraq. They might be able to provide you that update. We also provide -- in fact, I know the Department of Defense and others -- we provide updated reports on a regular basis, that are available for people to go and look at on websites. So I can try to help you track down that information.
Q But when you're doing the budget for early next year, you'll have to know how much money you're getting from Iraq.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we're in the process of doing the budget for next year right now. But in terms of that, I didn't bring that statistic with me. I'll be glad to try to help you track down that information.
Q In the document, you say victory is defined in stages, three stages: short, medium and long-term. Two questions. First is, does the President believe we have actually achieved any of these stages -- short-term, steady progress of fighting terrorists --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, each of those stages is defined in the document.
Q I understand --
MR. McCLELLAN: We're making real progress on all three tracks of the strategy for victory in Iraq. And --
Q These aren't the tracks of strategy. These are the definitions of short, medium and long-term victory.
MR. McCLELLAN: Right, and it spells out --
Q Does the President think we have achieved --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- how you define that.
Q Does the President think we have achieved short-term victory in Iraq?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, if you look at what the short-term -- what it says in the short-term, it says we're -- it says, short-term, Iraq is making steady progress in fighting terrorists, meeting political milestones, building democratic institutions, and standing up Iraqi security forces.
Medium-term, Iraq is in the lead defeating terrorists and providing its own security with a fully constitutional government in place and on its way to achieving its economic potential. The President believes that we're making real progress when it comes to achieving victory in Iraq and implementing our strategy. We are making progress on the political front, we're making progress on the economic front, and we're making progress on the security front.
And in terms of more specific information, I think that our commanders on the ground and our leaders -- civilian leaders within Iraq would be in the best place to talk -- best position to talk about it in more specific terms.
Q On this spectrum, are you willing to say that we have achieved short-term victory, medium-term victory -- any of those?
MR. McCLELLAN: I want to say we've made real progress on all three fronts of the strategy for victory.
Q And the second question is, how far along the spectrum do we have to get before U.S. troops can begin to come home? Does it have to be all the way to longer-term, which is peaceful, united, stable --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President talked about what our goal is for completing the mission, and he talks about our mission in the document that you have before you, as well. I would encourage you to go and look at that. But what we're working to do is help train Iraqi security forces so that they're in position to be able to defend themselves and put in -- and help the Iraqi people put in place a lasting democracy with -- lasting institutions for a democracy to fully emerge. And that's how we're looking at succeeding in Iraq.
Q But he said today that he would settle for nothing less than complete victory.
MR. McCLELLAN: That's right.
Q Does that mean that nothing less than complete victory is needed before U.S. troops can begin --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, absolutely not. In fact, I think he talked about as conditions change on the ground, and as we make progress on these different fronts, then our posture will change, as well -- our posture from a military standpoint and from a civilian standpoint.
Q Scott, I had a question on budget reconciliation. There's a congressional debate now whether to cut Medicaid as much as $50 billion and to couple that with the extension of capital gains and dividend tax cuts that don't even --
MR. McCLELLAN: Is it cut, or slow the growth?
Q Excuse me, extend the dividends tax cuts and --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I mean in terms of Medicaid.
Q Part of that is actually -- what's being debated is that to do those savings, cuts would have to extend beyond the affluent, who are trying to spend down by passing along their assets, and actually would cut benefits to poor, low-income Medicaid recipients. And I'm just wondering, does the White House support that, as well as does it support extending tax cuts that don't expire until 2008?
MR. McCLELLAN: We support Congress moving forward on a deficit reduction package that helps us meet our highest priorities and keeps us on track to cut the deficit. Congress is moving forward, and they're working to identify ways that we can find savings and to look at areas where we can achieve some offsets to funding that we'll be needing for other important priorities.
So we appreciate congressional leaders moving forward on this. There are different ideas that they're talking about. We've made very clear what our views are when it comes to slowing the growth in some of the programs that you're mentioning.
And in terms of the tax cuts, I just talked about how our economy is strong and exceeding expectations. One reason our economy is strong is because we acted and passed tax cuts and gave the American people more of their own money to save and spend and invest as they so choose. And our economy is growing. Jobs are being created. We're seeing more revenue come in to our federal budget, as well, because of that.
Q But how does not enacting -- how does not extending tax cuts that don't even expire until 2008, that you've once pointed out, slow the growth of the economy?
MR. McCLELLAN: It's important to make the tax cuts permanent. The President believes that helps provide greater certainty so that entrepreneurs and small businesses and the American people can plan better.
Q Why does it need to be done now?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, there are some -- as you point out, some of those tax cuts don't actually expire this year. But I just said why it's important to move forward on those, because you provide people with great certainty so that they can plan, and so that businesses can grow and hire people.
Q On the economy, Scott, you started out with the revised GDP numbers. A National Journal Survey showed just recently that 43 percent of those polled think the economy is still in a recession. Do you have any explanation for why there's --
MR. McCLELLAN: Which poll showed -- what was the question?
Q National Journal. I don't have a question.
MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't seen the poll, but our economy -- if you look at the facts, the facts show that our economy is strong, and it's growing stronger. It's exceeding expectations. It has overcome some great challenges. And we need to continue to pursue pro-growth policies that we've put in place, and that's exactly what we will continue doing, some of which Paula was mentioning.
Q Any notion of why more than two out of five would think the economy is still in a recession?
MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't looked at that poll, Roger. So I couldn't tell you without looking at the poll and seeing what the question was on that poll, as well. But I think it's important to talk about what the facts are. And when the American people look at the facts, I think they recognize them. And just look at the consumer confidence number that came out earlier this week, a significant increase in consumer confidence. This is in the aftermath of all the devastation that took place along the Gulf Coast region.
Q Scott, after the speech, Senator Kerry suggested the President was using the Naval audience as a prop, and has used military audiences like that in the past for these kinds of speeches. Can you tell us if that's true or not?
MR. McCLELLAN: Just yesterday the President stood with the Border Patrol and talked about the importance of moving forward on immigration reform. Today, he stood with our men and women in uniform at the Naval Academy and our future leaders of the military to talk to them about the war that we're engaged in.
No one has more invested in the global war on terrorism and what we're working to achieve in Iraq than our military and their families. And the President is the Commander-in-Chief, this is a time of war. And he has been talking about the war on terrorism regularly for some time now. And it's important to talk to our troops and let our troops know that they have our firm support and unwavering commitment to help them complete the mission.
Q But could the President's speech be as effective in a non-military setting?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President talks to the American people in a lot of different settings. I guess maybe there's some level of frustration by some people, some of the critics, at the fact that our military fully understands the stakes that are involved, and they understand the importance of succeeding and completing the mission, and winning the war on terrorism.
Martha, welcome to the White House.
Q Thank you very much.
MR. McCLELLAN: I forgot to publicly say to Terry Moran we wish him well, after he served for a long time --
Q He's doing very well.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- but we welcome you here, as well.
Q Thank you, thank you very much. Two things the President said today. He said, "Our goal is to train enough Iraqi security forces so they can carry the fight" -- but then he later went on to say "when our mission of defeating the terrorists in Iraq is complete, our troops will return home to a proud nation." Does that mean U.S. forces will be there until the terrorists, as you say, are defeated? Or can you eventually turn it all over, even if the insurgency is continuing?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think this partly goes back to what Craig was asking --
Q Sorry, I just got here.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- a little while ago. I would look at it in terms of what was outlined in the speech, and what we say in the document that we put forward today for the American people.
As the conditions change, and as we make progress on all these different fronts, then we'll be able to change our posture in Iraq, as well. And as the Iraqi forces stand up and take more of the lead, then we'll be able to reduce our troop presence. But it's going to be based on what the recommendations of the commanders are. It's going to be based on the conditions on the ground, and we're always going to look to our commanders to make the decisions about when those troops return home.
In terms of the terrorists, we are going to pursue terrorists wherever they are. Whether they're in Iraq or elsewhere, we're going to continue to pursue terrorists and go after them and prevent them from carrying out their attacks, and do our best to prevent them from carrying out attacks in the first place.
Q But he specifically said, "when the mission of defeating the terrorists is complete, then our troops will return home."
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, again, in terms of decisions about troop levels --
Q I'm not talking about a draw-down --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I know. But in terms of decisions about troop levels, that's going to be based on what our commanders say and based on conditions on the ground. So, no, I wouldn't look at it in the way that you suggested in your initial question.
Q Scott, if this document is an articulation of plans, strategy and policy that have been in place since 2003, why is it only being released now, on November 30, 2005?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we've been talking to the American people about the strategy that we have in place, and this pulls it all together in one document so that the American people can go and look at it and read through it, and understand where we are in terms of implementing that strategy and achieving victory in Iraq.
Q But did you see a sudden need to put together a compendium like this for release publicly?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think it's for the reasons I just stated: The war on terrorism is our highest priority; Iraq is the central front; and we're going to continue to talk to the American people about the strategy that we have in place. We have a very clear strategy in place. I talked to you earlier about how there have been some Democrats, some critics of this administration who have tried to suggest that there was no plan -- and I said that that is deeply irresponsible to suggest that there's no plan in place, particularly when our commanders have been briefing congressional leaders on the strategy that we're pursuing.
Q So is it safe to say then that you felt a need to respond to those accusations and articulate for the American people what the plan was?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, in fact, today -- this coincided with a series of speeches that the President is giving. The first one is to focus on one important element of our strategy for victory in Iraq, and that is the training of Iraqi security forces. This is one in a series that he's going to be giving leading up to the election. And we felt it was important to pull all this information together so the American people can go and see for themselves and read through the details of our strategy, and the progress that we're making.
Now, in terms of those who have been critics, the President will directly take on those who make false charges, or who engage in irresponsible attacks.
Q Thank you.
MR. McCLELLAN: Thank you.
END 12:19 P.M. EST