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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

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

Press Gaggle by Trent Duffy
Aboard Air Force One
En route Minneapolis, Minnesota

11:15 A.M. EST

MR. DUFFY: Let me run through the President's schedule. This morning, he taped his radio address; it's on the Patriot Act and the need for Congress to pass that, and I'll have a few remarks about that later. He then had his daily intelligence briefings. He also met with the Secretary of Defense. He had a photo opportunity with the Make-A-Wish Foundation children prior to our departure. And we are en route to Minneapolis, where he will make remarks at a Mark Kennedy '06 and Minnesota Republican Party Victory Reception. We return at about 4:45 p.m., and then he has another reception tonight.

That's what I have for his schedule. We can do a week ahead at the end.

On the Patriot Act, the President again calls on the Congress to pass the Patriot Act. Congress has reached a compromise on renewing the Patriot Act. It's very simple: law enforcement wants this and the terrorists don't, so it's incredibly necessary that we renew this legislation to give our law enforcement community the tools that they need to chase down and prosecute and fight the terrorists so we can do what we can to protect the American people.

As Scott mentioned yesterday, the bill renews every single expiring provision and it builds in additional safeguards so that civil rights and our civil liberties are protected, including additional legal requirements for wire-tapping, more avenues for citizens to challenge requests for information by the government they feel are unfair, and additional audits by the Justice Department IG as to the enforcement of this Act. I would point out that there have been seven IG reports on the enforcement of the Patriot Act since its enactment, and each time the IG has found no evidence of abuses.

There are some other important provisions in this related to port security, rail security and terrorist financing, as well as new tools to combat the proliferation of methamphetamine, which is of particular concern to rural America, as we've learned over the course of the past few years.

So, again, the President calls on the Congress to reach agreement on that quickly and send it to his desk so that he can sign that into law.

And that's what I have.

Q Trent, today, obviously, he's going to raise money for Mark Kennedy. Can you talk about, sort of, the scope of the fundraising activities that the President is going to engage in over the next few months?

MR. DUFFY: The President is proud that he has presided over expansion of the Republican majorities in the House and the Senate. And he will continue to campaign actively on behalf of those who share his agenda. And the Republican Party continues to build its majorities because it's the Republican Party that is representing the views of America - whether it comes to fighting aggressively and winning the war on terror; or taking action that's necessary to build the economy, create millions of new jobs; or responding to the needs of seniors by delivering on a prescription drug benefit. It's the Republican Party that's seeing the challenges, addressing those challenges and taking real action on behalf of the American people.

So the President looks forward to actively campaigning and building on the Republican majorities in the House and Senate in the days and months ahead - just as he did in 2002.

Q Do you have any way to characterize, say, how many - you know, how many events he's got coming up to sort of counter the Democrats' contention that candidates are running away from him?

MR. DUFFY: I think the fact that the President is campaigning on behalf of Congressman Kennedy, who's running for an open seat in the Senate is proof positive that Republicans not only want the President to campaign on their behalf, but are happy to welcome them in their states. The President will have an active schedule in the coming months as we near the November elections. They are a year away and you saw his activity in 2002, when it was said that history has shown that the Republicans - or the majority party is going to lose, and Republicans defied history. And that's mostly as a result of the agenda and the fact that it's the Republican Party that has the right agenda for the American people.

Q But you can't give numbers, like, dozens or a handful - or any way to characterize what -

MR. DUFFY: I just think the best way to clarify it now, Jennifer, is that he's going to have a very active schedule. This President believes strongly that he wants to leave the country in good hands and he believes that the Republican leadership in both the House and the Senate and the Republican caucuses in both the House and Senate are those good hands and he wants to build on those majorities. So he's going to campaign actively. He's going to be traveling the country. I think the best way to describe it is, very thorough.

Q Trent, if I could ask you about the past two speeches on Iraq and the one you have coming up on Monday. What's been most notable about them - apart from the strategy, itself - has been the decision in both of the recent speeches to admit some fairly severe mistakes in the course of reconstruction and in arming the civilian Iraqi police and so forth; there was a long list the President provided.

Why did the President - many of these were criticisms that have been made for some time by outside and the White House has denied. Why did the President decide to reverse course and begin to discuss openly mistakes made in Iraq?

MR. DUFFY: I would challenge your premise. The President has talked about the difficulties in Iraq from the very beginning - whether that be in reconstruction or in building the institutions necessary for an Iraqi democracy to take hold, or in the security. He has acknowledged those repeatedly and he has done so in the past two speeches.

I think what the President's speeches identified are the fact that not only do we have a strategy for victory in Iraq, but that strategy for victory is one that adapts to changing circumstances on the ground. And that reflects the fact that the President and his team are committed to adapting to changing realities, which are inevitable when you are dealing with a challenge like the one in Iraq. We have to win in Iraq; the President is convinced and confident that we will win in Iraq, and defeat the terrorists. And part of his strategy is adapting to those changing circumstances. So I think the President will continue to talk about how it's necessary to have an evergreen strategy and one that reflects the circumstances on the ground.

On Monday's speech -- he has talked about the security aspect and the training of Iraqi security forces. The second speech he devoted to the economic and the reconstruction. On Monday, he'll turn to the political track and how it's necessary as we approach the elections next Thursday, the 15th, that we continue to help the Iraqis build the institutions that are necessary for a lasting and durable democracy.

There were a lot of nay-sayers who said that the Iraqis don't want a democracy, that they can't govern themselves. And throughout all this, the President rejected that and the Iraqi people rejected that repeatedly. In January of last year, 8 million Iraqis went to the polls, defied the terrorists, defied the violence. And they voted. And, likewise, we saw at the confirmation of the constitution, you had near 10 million defy the terrorists, defy the violence, and go to the polls.

And I think one thing we're seeing yet again is there is an up-tick in violence, and that is directly tied to the fact that the terrorists want to, yet again, try to intimidate the Iraqi people into not voting. And that was anticipated, that's why we have the extra U.S. and coalition forces in the area. And we're confident that the Iraqi people - you can see it in the political activity that is flourishing; they are defying the terrorists yet again.

Q If I could just follow up on that for a moment. When you challenged the premise, you came back and said the President has talked about the difficulties in Iraq from the beginning - which he certainly has. Unless my memory is wrong, what he hadn't discussed before was specific errors of judgment made by the administration, the Pentagon, the reconstruction effort, and how to deal with those.

And now he has come out and begun to describe some of those. I think these speeches are the first time he's done that; is that wrong?

MR. DUFFY: I think he's just gone into greater detail about how our strategy - which is the strategy for victory which has been in place since the beginning - has adapted to changing realities on the ground. And that is one of the key ingredients for victory, is you've got to be able to adapt and to improvise and to overcome when you have a challenge like we're facing in Iraq.

He has gone into more detail about those difficulties, I'll grant you. But he has always acknowledged the difficulties and the great challenge that we're facing, as he's tried to continually discuss with the American people why it's necessary that we win.

Q Can you talk a little bit about how the bird flu exercise thing is going to work tomorrow?

MR. DUFFY: Sure. As Scott announced this week, the administration will be holding a pandemic preparedness exercise on Saturday. It will be from about 8:00 a.m. until noon. It involves top Cabinet and government officials - you have Scott's announcement.

As far as coverage, it will be a closed event, but we anticipate that Fran Townsend, the President's Homeland Security Advisor, will be available following that for a very quick briefing. And we'll have that for you.

Q What about the fact that - I mean, what will they be doing? How does the exercise work?

MR. DUFFY: It's a hypothetical exercise. We're not going to get into details of the actual exercise. But suffice it to say it is part of the administration's effort to be ready and have the entire federal government ready to respond in the event of a pandemic. I've got to underscore again that we have no evidence that a threat is imminent. But the President said that we have been given time to prepare, and we must prepare. So we're stockpiling vaccine, we're trying to push the U.S. manufacturing capability for a new vaccine, we're working with state and local leaders, we're working with the international community, and we're trying to educate the American people about what this very real threat is.

But it's an exercise that the government does just to prepare in the event of emergency. It's a drill.

Q It's a tabletop exercise based on an assumption that the pandemic spreads naturally, or that it is a bioterror event?

MR. DUFFY: I'm not going to get into the scenario, since it is a hypothetical exercise, and I'll leave any details about further aspects of the exercise to Fran.

Q Week ahead?

Q Are there going to be any live chickens on the White House lawn? (Laughter.)

MR. DUFFY: Mr. Sanger, no, we don't believe there will be any live poultry there. But I do want to underscore, especially on behalf of Secretary Johanns, that there is no evidence of infected birds or human beings in the United States and that poultry is very safe to eat when cooked properly.

The week ahead. On Sunday, the President will attend Christmas in Washington, in Washington, D.C. On Monday, he will make remarks on the war on terror at the Park Hyatt in Philadelphia. Hosting this event will be the World Affairs Council. On Tuesday, the 13th, he will make a statement at a senior center in Springfield, Virginia, on Medicare and prescription drug benefit that is available to seniors today. On Wednesday, December 14th, he will make remarks on the war on terror at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. On Thursday, December 15th, no public

events scheduled. Friday, December 16th, no public events scheduled.

Q Thank you.

END 11:28 A.M. EST