The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 7, 2006

Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One En Route
Atlanta, Georgia

10:28 A.M. EST

MR. McCLELLAN: Good morning, everybody. Let me first run through the President's day, and then I'll be glad to take whatever questions. This morning the President had breakfast with his Attorney General to talk about a number of important priorities. Following that, he participated in his usual morning briefing, intelligence briefing. Then after that we departed.

Let me just mention one more leader call that the President had. The President, just a short time ago, called Prime Minister Rasmussen of Denmark. They had a good conversation. The President expressed support and solidarity with Denmark in the aftermath of the violence against the Danish and other diplomatic facilities. The two leaders agreed that the way forward is through dialogue and tolerance, not violence. Both leaders also reiterated the importance of tolerance and respect for religions of all faith, and freedom of press. The President commended Prime Minister Rasmussen for his responsible comments urging tolerance and respect. And the President said -- the President told the Prime Minister that we're urging all governments to act to lower tensions, restore calm, and protect diplomatic facilities. And that was the extent of the conversation.

Q -- here on Air Force One?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, on Air Force One just a short time ago.

And now we're on our way to Georgia. The President and Mrs. Bush are honored to attend the celebration of life for Mrs. Coretta Scott King, and the President, I think as you all are aware, will be making brief remarks at the service.

Q How brief is brief?

MR. McCLELLAN: It's less than five minutes. I think that's what most of the speakers were allotted for the service today.

Q Where does the President rank -- I mean, in the beginning, or middle, or where?

MR. McCLELLAN: He's fairly early on in the program. Do you have copies of the --

Q No.

MR. DECKARD: We have them there for you.

Q I hate to do this -- can I get like five copies?

MR. McCLELLAN: There are a number of speakers throughout the morning and afternoon.

Anything else? (Laughter.)

Q Were the President and First Lady talking with the former President and former First Lady?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President was visiting with President and Mrs. Clinton -- President and Senator Clinton -- and Secretary Jackson and Mrs. Jackson, and Secretary Rice. They were in the conference room together. And then the President left after visiting with them to go call Prime Minister Rasmussen. I expect he'll be back in the conference room momentarily, if he's not already. But they had a good visit. The President is glad to have his brother traveling with us today. (Laughter.)

Q Is there anything that the United States can do to sort of try and calm tension over there?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think it's a responsibility that all governments have to speak out about the importance of addressing these issues in a peaceful manner and show tolerance and respect for people of all faiths, and to also show respect for freedom of press. And that's what the two discussed in their phone call. That's what we've emphasized over the last few days in both the statements and comments that we have made. And that's what we will continue to do. And that's why we've publicly called on all governments to take steps to lower the tensions and to restore calm and to prevent violence.

Q Did the President remember the very last time that he spoke with Coretta Scott King or he was with her?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's -- I mean, as I indicated, they're honored to be attending the celebration of her life today. The President and Mrs. Bush will always cherish the time that they spent with Mrs. King. I know they feel blessed to have had the opportunity to get to know her and spend time with her, particularly over the last few years. And I remember the trip to the King Center in Atlanta, just -- I think it was about a year, maybe a little bit longer, maybe a year or two ago. I think maybe a year ago. And they had a good visit and a good tour of the King Center there.

I think in the President's remarks, you'll hear the President offer the sympathy of the entire nation for a remarkable and courageous woman who helped make our nation whole. And she is someone -- I think the President may touch on this, as well -- who not only helped secure the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., her husband, but she built her own legacy. And she made many lasting contributions to freedom and equality. And I think you'll see that reflected in the President's remarks.

Q Her own legacy -- did the President take a bipartisan approach and reach out to Coretta Scott King ever, to talk to her about issues of race, particularly, maybe around Katrina, before Katrina happened, maybe?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, look, this is a day to celebrate her life and talk about her --

Q In that context.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- talk about her many contributions. Certainly they talked about issues that were priorities to both of them when they visited, and how we could work together.

Q Scott, yesterday when the budget came out, Harry Reid didn't just criticize it, he called it "immoral." What's the White House reaction to that?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President, in his State of the Union, called for elevating the tone in Washington, D.C., and working together on the priorities of the American people. This budget lays out the important priorities for the American people. And the President has always worked to elevate the tone in Washington, D.C.

I think it's one thing to have a substantive debate on the issues. Unfortunately, I think we've come to expect from Senator Reid such unfounded partisan attacks. The issue here that we ought to be focusing on is what the debate is about. It's about priorities and about spending and taxes. And it appears that he is intent on engaging in baseless partisan attacks. And that might be in part because the only ideas that have really been offered from some members of his party are higher taxes and bigger spending.

And the President is going to continue working to reach out and find ways we can work together to accomplish big priorities for the American people. He laid out some very important ones in his State of the Union. These are not partisan issues; this is about -- when he laid out the competitiveness initiative, that's about making sure America remains the most competitive economy in the world. When he laid out the advanced energy initiative, that's about making sure that we are working together to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy. And when he laid out his health care initiatives, those are about ways we can work together to reduce cost and make sure that Americans have the best possible health care.

There are a number of areas that I talked about last week where the President believes we have an opportunity to really work together and get things done. Some of those are the ones I just mentioned. The commission -- the bipartisan commission to address the mandatory spending with entitlement programs -- entitlement programs are the biggest threat to our fiscal health. And that's where the real danger lies in terms of spending. And that's why the President is reaching out to Democratic and Republican leaders to move forward on a commission to solve these issues.

Thank you.

END 10:38 A.M. EST

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