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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 21, 2006
Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Moffett Federal Airfield, California
1:55 P.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: All right, good morning, everybody, or good afternoon. It's morning, I guess, in California -- the radio address the President taped before we left. It will be on important priorities that Congress needs to act on when they get back, and important priorities for the people of California, as well, such as the Competitiveness Initiative, the Advanced Energy Initiative, and supporting our troops with the supplemental funding and immigration reform.
Then he had his usual briefing. He met with the Secretary of State this morning. When we get there -- the Governor will meet us when we get there, and I expect he'll ride with the President to the event, and then he's going to be participating on the panel on competitiveness, as well, as will John Chambers, the head of Cisco Systems, who is on board with us -- he and his wife are.
Then following that, the President will go to Stanford, and he'll be meeting with some of the Hoover Institution fellows. Secretary Shultz will be there, and help moderate a discussion he'll have with some of the fellows. That's a closed event. And then he has a private dinner this evening with some Hoover Institution officials. And I think that's all I've got on his schedule, besides a couple of announcements and updates.
The President called Prime Minister-elect Prodi on the plane. This was about 11:05 a.m. -- I mean, 11:50 a.m. Central time [sic]. The President called --
Q Could you say the time again?
MR. McCLELLAN: Around 11:50 a.m. Eastern time. The President called to congratulate the Prime Minister-elect. The President said he looks forward to working with him, and looked forward to seeing him again soon. And the Prime Minister-elect expressed his appreciation for the call. Italy is a valued ally and good partner. The President looks forward to working with Prime Minister-elect Prodi on a number of common priorities that we have.
One other announcement -- we'll be putting out a statement on this. Prime Minister Rasmussen will be coming to Camp David on Friday, June 9th. Denmark is a close ally in the war on terror and a valued partner in advancing freedom around the world. The President looks forward to welcoming Prime Minister Rasmussen to Camp David. We'll get that statement out to you all here shortly.
And I think that's all I've got to really begin with. I've got a week ahead at the end.
Q Is there a private meeting with the President and the Governor in California?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think they'll be riding to the event together, so they'll have an opportunity to visit about important priorities.
Q Does the President have an answer to his -- the Governor's request about levees?
MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, our Chairman on the Council of Environmental Quality just did a call with California reporters --
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, just a short time ago, just completed a call. The Army Corps of Engineers has been working with California to move ahead on levee repairs. This is to repair some levees in the Sacramento area. And Chairman Connaughton of our Council of Environmental Quality announced that we had reached an agreement with California and are moving ahead to repair those levees in a quick and practical way. There are 29 locations all together, and this will be done over the course of the summer and into the fall. The President directed his team to -- his Cabinet team and Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality to make sure that the repairs happen as quickly as possible.
Q Who is going to be at dinner -- it's Shultz and who else?
MR. McCLELLAN: Hoover Institution officials.
Q Shultz will be at the dinner?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes.
Q Is it Shultz's house, the private residence?
MR. DECKARD: No. We'll get you the information.
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll get you that information.*
Q What was the purpose of those briefings and -- the meeting with the Hoover fellows, is there a topic, a purpose to it?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think it's just -- the fellows? He's in the area, and it's an opportunity to talk to them about issues that are on their minds, as well as some of the priorities that we're pursuing.
Q Is he considering asking George Shultz to help out in some other way, maybe come back to Washington, or anything along that --
MR. McCLELLAN: I hadn't heard that one. I think Secretary Shultz is happy where he is right now. He's a good friend, and the President looks forward to seeing him.
Q Are there any steps on gas prices -- immediate steps to help fuel prices the President is planning soon? You talked about the long-term stuff.
MR. McCLELLAN: The President is concerned about high prices at the pump. And I think you heard him talk about it earlier this week. He's concerned about the impact it's having on small businesses, the impact it's having on families who are trying to make ends meet. I think that the increase in gas prices in recent weeks is all the more reason why Congress should move ahead and act on the initiative he outlined in his State of the Union, and that this should create a sense of urgency for Congress to move ahead and pass these initiatives that will really help us change the way we power our cars and power our homes and businesses. And the President will be talking about that in remarks tomorrow, and highlighting that -- the initiative that he outlined. He will be urging Congress to move ahead.
Q What he's talking about tomorrow, fuel cells, and then what he's talking about with Congress is much more long-term. Is there anything he can do now?
MR. McCLELLAN: We're always looking at any short-term ways we can address these issues. Remember, this is not something that we got into overnight. This has been occurring for years and building for years. What we have to do is reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy, particularly foreign crude. And that's why the President outlined a really bold initiative that will transform the way we power our cars and homes and businesses, by investing in new technologies.
And that's one of the things he's going to be talking about on this trip. It's a high priority for the President. We passed a comprehensive energy plan last year, but there's more that we need to do. And there should be a sense of urgency within Congress to move ahead and get this done, so that we don't continue to run into this situation year after year after year. If you're going to address rising energy prices, you have to go to the root causes of why those energy prices are rising, and it's because we're dependent on foreign oil.
Q Will the President, on this trip, though, Scott --
MR. McCLELLAN: But we're always looking at ways we might help in the short-term, even though this is something that requires a comprehensive solution.
Q Speaking of a short-term solution, will he be talking about or introducing any new ideas about those short-term solutions on this trip?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he's going to be talking more about energy and high energy prices tomorrow in his remarks.
Q That's at a fuel cell -- fuel car event. I mean, that's a long-term -- that's many years down the line. Is he going to be offering any solutions for motorists today?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think, one, that's not the only thing he's going to be talking about tomorrow. I think he'll be talking about his broader initiative. And what we have to do is go to the root causes of high energy prices. Again, this is something that puts a strain on family budgets, puts a strain on small businesses. And it's not something that occurred overnight, and it's not something that's going to be solved overnight. There are some short-term steps we've taken.
One of the things the President emphasized the other day, too, was that we have a responsibility to make sure that we are acting to stop any price gouging, and we'll stay on top of that, as well. I think the Department of Energy put out some additional information on that the other day. We will always look for ways we can -- might be able to help in the short-term. We have a strong economy, but rising energy prices, rising health care costs are concerns that the President wants to see Congress act on. That's something that the American people are concerned about, those two issues, and that's why Congress needs to act on these initiatives.
Q How frustrated is he --
MR. McCLELLAN: But he's trying to focus on a bipartisan way we can solve these issues, and I think there's a lot of bipartisan support for the Advanced Energy Initiative. This is something that has good support among leaders of both parties of Congress, and I think that the recent increase at the pump is all the more reason why Congress ought to be moving ahead quickly when they get back.
Q How frustrated is he, though, Scott, that the strong economy is being overshadowed by frustrations about high gas prices?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you need to look at what people are doing. Consumer confidence is at very high levels, and that's what's important to look at when you talk about the economy. You have more than 5.1 million jobs that have been created, an unemployment rate that is down to 4.7 percent. One of the other areas he's talking about is the Competitiveness Initiative. We need to act to keep America the most competitive economy in the world. This is a strong and growing economy, but there are still priorities that need to be addressed that the American people are concerned about.
Q Is Harriet Miers expected to leave as general counsel --
MR. McCLELLAN: Are you talking about this story in The New York Times today? First of all, I think Harriet Miers is a valued and trusted advisor. Secondly, Josh Bolten told the senior staff that the story is not accurate. Josh is not considering any such action, and more importantly, it's not something that is under consideration by the President.
Q Why did the President wait until now to call Prodi, and secondly, how significant a breakthrough does the administration see these latest political developments in Iraq?
MR. McCLELLAN: First on Prime Minister-elect Prodi. I think just in the last couple of days the election has been certified by the courts in Italy. And so before that it was under dispute. And the President wanted to call him as soon as the issue was resolved.
On Iraq, the parliament is supposed to meet again tomorrow. And we continue to urge the Iraqi leaders to come together and get a unity government in place as quickly as possible. We hope to see some good progress in the coming days. I think you have seen that Iraqi leaders have been continuing to have discussions about how to move forward and get a government formed and in place. And so we will be watching in the coming days to see how the parliament moves ahead. My understanding is that they're supposed to be acting on the top seven leadership posts as they come back to meet again.
Q The first quarter fundraising numbers are in for the congressional campaign candidates' committees. And the Democratic Committee's Senatorial Committee and Congressional Committee are doing very well versus the Republican committees. Is there any concern on that for you guys?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know -- you'd have to ask the Republican National Committee. I don't know that they agree with that assessment that you made. I think if you look at events the President has been attending, he's been helping candidates generate strong support and raise a lot of resources for their campaigns.
Q Can I go back to Harriet Miers for a second? Is the President satisfied with the job she's doing?
MR. McCLELLAN: Absolutely, absolutely. She's been doing a great job. She's an important member of this team.
Q Has he told her she will stay in the same job that she's in, as opposed to maybe switching to some other role within the administration?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think I just talked about the specific report, and now you're trying to speculate about all sorts of things.
Q I wanted to make sure I was hearing you right.
MR. McCLELLAN: I think I was pretty clear in what I said.
Q Well, since Mr. Bolten is also on the plane, will they be discussing other personnel issues or anything?
MR. McCLELLAN: There's nothing to update you on. We'll keep you posted.
Q On Italy, given the nature of his relationship -- the President's relationship with Berlusconi, would it be normal, or is he considering given Berlusconi a call, too?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, he is, in about 45 minutes. Good question.
Q Thank you.
MR. McCLELLAN: They've worked out a time to talk here shortly.**
Q What do you expect him to say?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll let him say it, then I'll tell you.
Q Can you let us know --
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I absolutely will. That's why I told you.
All right, week ahead. I'll skip through -- there's nothing new on here for Saturday and Sunday, right, and Monday? I'll skip through that, because you already have that.
On Tuesday, the President will be making remarks on energy --
Q What is the Monday morning -- the immigration speech?
MR. McCLELLAN: Didn't we put that on there? Oh, okay, in Irvine, California. He will be making remarks on his immigration reform proposal.
Q Anything more on that?
MR. McCLELLAN: It's still a couple days away. We'll update you as we get closer. Then he's got the congressional reception in Vegas for Jon Porter.
Then we're back in D.C. on Tuesday. He'll make remarks on energy in Washington. He'll participate in the presentation of the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy to the United States Naval Academy Football Team.
And on Wednesday he'll make remarks to the 2006 National and State Teachers of the Year at the White House.
Thursday we will be traveling to Louisiana and Mississippi. He'll be participating in a National Volunteer Service Week project in Louisiana, and then doing one in Mississippi.
And on Friday, he'll, as you all know, he'll be meeting with the President of Azerbaijan at the White House.
And then Saturday he'll be making remarks at the White House Correspondent's Dinner.
All right, thank you all. I'll update you on Berlusconi.
END 2:11 P.M. EDT
* It will be at Secretary Shultz's home.
** The President had a good conversation with Prime Minister Berlusconi. The President thanked him for his strong leadership and friendship. The two leaders agreed to stay in touch.