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

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 21, 2006

Press Gaggle by Dana Perino
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Tampa, Florida

10:52 A.M. EDT

MS. PERINO: How are you? I'm going to give you the schedule, and then I've got an update on the President's speech today. He had his normal briefings this morning, and then he met with the Secretary of Defense. We are on our way to Florida, Tampa.

I want to take this moment to shine a little light on the Freedom Corps greeter, because the two today are quite remarkable, especially the first. His name is Zach Bonner. He is only eight years old. And he's done a lot of work for victims of hurricanes. After Hurricane Charlie in 2004 he helped collect supplies for families impacted by the storm, and he was able to get grass roots efforts to donate 25 truckloads of supplies for families in need.

After Hurricane Katrina he organized a toy drive and delivered gifts to children in hurricane-stricken regions of Louisiana. He also founded the Little Red Wagon Foundation, which is a non-profit organization to help other kids that are in need. And he teamed up with Stand Up For Kids, which is a non-profit organization which helps homeless youth, and has assembled more than 400 backpacks, and he calls them Zachpacks, all one word, very trendy marketing tool. And they're filled with donated snacks and other -- socks, underwear, personal hygiene items, first-aid kits and toys.

And then as a topper of all this, he's planning a Christmas party for children impacted by Hurricane Katrina who are living at Renaissance Village in Baker, Louisiana. To date he has collected toys and gifts to deliver to 250 children. We don't always take time out to highlight these individuals, but he's certainly worth giving a shout out to this morning.

The President will attend a Gus Bilirakis for Congress reception in Tampa, and then we will go to Orlando, and he will attend a Crist for Governor and Republican Party of Florida reception. And then we arrive back at the White House at 8:45 p.m. tonight.

For these speeches, as I've mentioned before, the President doesn't really have formal remarks. But there is -- and you've heard him in some of these political speeches going -- talking about the Republican record that they have to run on.

Today, he's going to add an element, talking about the detail and the contrast between Republicans and Democrats on taxes. He will note that the last time Democrats controlled the House, which was 1993, they passed a massive tax increase. And since then, they have consistently supported higher taxes. Just this week, the top Democrat of the House Ways and Means Committee, he said he could not think of one of the Bush tax cuts he would renew.

So one of the things he'll say in his speech is that the Democrat's agenda -- excuse me, the Democrat's tax agenda comes down to this: If you bring home a paycheck, are married, have a child, or own a family farm or small business, the Democrats consistently vote to raise your taxes. He will talk about the consequences for ordinary Americans and small businesses if the Democrats get into the majority and let the tax relief expire. And the President will make it clear that he plans to continue explaining the differences between the parties during this campaign, so that the American people know what their options are. And on taxes, he believes that they have a very clear choice. And so he will detail that out today in the speech you will hear later this morning -- I guess it's early afternoon, 1:10 p.m.

Q Both speeches the same?

MS. PERINO: I think you'll hear it in both speeches.


Q What is the current status of negotiations with the Hill on the terrorism legislation? And do you really believe that this can -- this compromise can be worked out before they leave session?

MS. PERINO: Negotiations and discussions are ongoing. We are talking in good faith with the people up on the Hill, both staff and members. And so we can remain cautiously optimistic that we'll be able to reach a resolution. I think the intentions are -- the intentions are pure on all sides. We want to reach a resolution so the very valuable program can continue, and they're just going back and forth right now, discussing which is the best way to provide the clarity that the CIA operators say that they need. And that was the President's test for this. He said he was going to ask only one question, and does the clarification that we end up with allow the CIA what they need in order to proceed with this very valuable program.

As to the timing as to whether or not we can get it done before the election, we certainly hope so. So we will continue to work very hard on that. I know that they were in discussions over the past several days, into the evening hours, and up early in the morning. So people are working very hard.

Q On immigration, the Senate is moving ahead with the fence bill, the House fence bill; the House is moving ahead with some of these other independent measures. What is the White House vision on the immigration debate right now and the Senate moving ahead with the fence debate?

MS. PERINO: Some of the proposals that are moving through right now are ones that we have either -- I believe that some of them are actually in our budget that we proposed. Border security is certainly a critical part of the President's comprehensive immigration reform plan, and in no way does the passage of border security only bill take the place of what he has called for, which is a comprehensive immigration reform bill. And he said just yesterday in the Wolf Blitzer interview that he's trying to continue to push for a comprehensive reform bill.

Remember that none of these bills are on their way to the President's desk yet. So we will continue to see how things work out up on the Hill.

Q Would the President find it necessary to seek General Musharraf's permission to launch military action against Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan?

MS. PERINO: Let me tell you what I'll say on that. You know that President Musharraf is going to be at the White House tomorrow, and there will be an availability in the late morning hours. As we've said before, Pakistan is an important partner in the war on terror and a friend to the United States. We've had excellent cooperation in many areas, including counterterrorism. And the President has repeatedly said how much he appreciates Musharraf's commitment to pursuing al Qaeda and continuing to work with us in cooperation in the search for Osama bin Laden. Pakistan and the United States remain close allies, working not only on the war on terror together, but on many other areas.

What I can tell you is that -- without getting into any operational details -- that when there is actionable information, that Osama bin Laden will be brought to justice.

Q Can I ask one more question about taxes? The President has said, or his advisors have said that Social Security remains something he wants to deal with. When he talks about taxes today, does he believe that Social Security can be put on a sustainable path without raising taxes?

MS. PERINO: In the remarks that I saw, I didn't see Social Security mentioned as a part of that. That doesn't mean that the President doesn't think that Social Security isn't already having a massive impact on America's fiscal health, and especially looking into the future, as we try to figure out how to sustain the program.

Q But if he's saying, Republicans are not going to raise your taxes, is he saying, any fix that I propose for Social Security will contain no tax increases?

MS. PERINO: Again, I don't believe that these remarks talk at all about the Social Security matter, and I think that the President has said that after the election he's going to work with Congress to make sure that we try to solve this problem. I don't have anything more for you on that. I mean, there's not a new proposal on the table.

Q Hungary, the situation in Hungary. What is the reaction to what's going on there, particularly to the revelation that the government apparently repeatedly, and for some time, lied to the people about the economy and other things?

MS. PERINO: I don't know a lot of detail on it. Obviously, it's never appropriate to lie to people, in a democracy or otherwise. And so this is a matter that the people of Hungary are going to have to address through the democratic processes that they have in place. And so far, from what I've seen, I think that they are doing that and people are expressing their reaction to it in a -- so far in a non-violent way. We certainly hope that that continues. But I think this is a matter for the people of Hungary to deal with.

Q I mean, has the President had any personal reaction, given that the leader is such a strong ally of his, and he was just with him a few months ago?

MS. PERINO: I haven't talked to the President about it at all, I don't know.

Q The President, two days ago, that was the final speech in this new series in the war on terror. Where is that debate right now in the war on terror? What did you guys accomplish through those series of speeches, and does any of that -- will his campaign remarks reflect that, the current campaign speech reflect that today?

MS. PERINO: Yes, the President is going to continue to talk about the war on terror. I think you've seen at any of the campaign stops that he's gone on over the past year that part of drawing the distinctions between Republicans and Democrats is talking about how we would approach the war on terror, versus how they might approach the war on terror. And so you will hear him continue to talk about that.

The series of speeches really took a step back and was broken out into a series because it's so complex and there are so many things to talk about, that giving a series of speeches where he could break it out and have individual topics addressed for one speech we think was effective to remind people about, for example, the institutional reforms that have been put in play; the speech on September 6th which talked about the high-value detainee program of the CIA and the effectiveness of that program. Also, talking yesterday -- or Tuesday, two days ago, -- at the UNGA, talking to a different audience, the international community and directly to the people of the Middle East, and calling on the United Nations to stand up for peace and to stand for moderate governments, so that the choice becomes one -- the choice is, do you support moderate governments or do you support extremists who are going to make choices that are filled with terror and murder and violence?

And so I think that particular series was a successful one. You will continue to hear the President talk about the war on terror as they move forward in this campaign season because there is a clear distinction to be drawn.

Q I'm wondering about the trip, is there going to be any official business that the President is doing on this trip?

MS. PERINO: I believe that we just have two political events.

Q So this trip is paid for by whom?

MS. PERINO: There's a whole formula for that, that's dealt with in terms of the campaigns, through the RNC -- I don't know how that whole formula works out, but there is one that deals with the political costs of the trip.*

Q This is not on the taxpayers' dime?

MS. PERINO: The political part of the trip is not on the taxpayers' dime, no.

Q There is no other part of the trip that isn't political?

MS. PERINO: Let me try to get you the formula, because I don't have it with me.

Q Katherine Harris says that she's going to be at the GOP's meeting at 4 p.m., at the Ritz Carlton. Does the President plan to meet with her as the Republican nominee for the Senate race?

MS. PERINO: I don't know if there is any specific separate meeting, but I believe she is going to be there as part of the event.

Q Does he have any plans to raise money for her?

MS. PERINO: I don't know of anything that's scheduled.

Q Musharraf tomorrow -- you touched on that. What are they going to talk about tomorrow that's going to be different from what they talk about with Musharraf and Karzai next week?

MS. PERINO: I think you'll have to stay tuned. I don't know if I understand your point. He's going to talk to Musharraf tomorrow, is that event, and I believe Tuesday is the Karzai event, and then there is the joint event on Wednesday.

Q But is it the same topics tomorrow that you're going to talk about in the joint -- the trilateral meeting on Wednesday, or does -- how do you pitch forward to that meeting on Wednesday when you -- with this meeting tomorrow? Is there set-up work that's done?

MS. PERINO: I'm not sure I understand the question. Obviously, the war on terror is something that they have to talk about. There are regional issues, and there's also other issues -- probably economic issues in terms of economic help that we're giving to both countries, especially like in Afghanistan, where you're talking about the beefing up of an agricultural sector that doesn't have to do with the poppies.

So there's different things that are going to be talked about in each meeting, and then they're going to go to a joint meeting and they'll have a discussion altogether, and it will be a dinner, which will be a little bit of a different setting than a one-on-one meeting in the Oval, followed by a press avail.

Q So I should have said it this way. These are two allies that are allied with us, the United States, but are right now exchanging words between the two of them. How do you deal with that in advance of the meeting on Wednesday?

MS. PERINO: I think that we all share the goal of a more peaceful region and in fighting the war on terror. So, start there, and then on other issues we'll see if we can help bridge gaps if there needs to be. But I think that the great thing is that they're both coming, they're going to have separate meetings with the President, and then we're all going to meet together on Wednesday night.

All right? Thank you.

END 11:07 A.M. EDT

*A formula is applied that comes from regulations that have been used since at least the Reagan Administration. The percentage of time spent on political activity and official activity is determined from a particular trip. Then, the total cost of the trip, less security costs, is allocated based on the percentage of time spent on political and official activity. The government pays for the official percentage of the activity, the political entity pays for the percentage of the costs that are related to political activity. When the President travels and there is a political event on the schedule, the government does not incur any additional costs. When a trip is all political, the same formula applies. The political entity pays for all the costs related to the trip specifically.

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