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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 14, 2007

Press Gaggle by Dana Perino
Crawford Middle School
Crawford, Texas

11:57 A.M. CDT

MS. PERINO: Good morning, everybody, from Crawford junior high [sic]. Today the President had his normal briefings this morning. He also had three foreign leader calls, which I will read out for you. The President spoke this morning separately to President Karzai and to President Musharraf. He congratulated both leaders on the successful conclusion of the joint peace jirga which was held in Kabul on August 9th through the 12th, just last week.

The President also spoke to Prime Minister Singh of India this morning. The President congratulated the Prime Minister and the Indian people on the 60th anniversary of India's independence, which happens tomorrow. The two leaders also discussed the civil nuclear cooperation initiative, climate change, the importance of a successful outcome in the Doha round, and regional security.

One scheduling announcement and one -- just a reminder. After attending the North American Leaders meetings on August 20th and 21st in Ottawa, the President will attend a Norm Coleman for U.S. Senate Reception at a private residence outside Minneapolis; closed press. And as you already know, the President will remain overnight in Kansas City, Missouri, on August 21st. He will make remarks to the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention in Kansas City on August 22nd. That will also be -- that will be open press. And then he will return to his ranch the afternoon on the 22nd.

That's all I've got. You might have to shout your questions, since we've got the air conditioner going.

Q Two things. One, what's the President doing, what's he spending time doing on his mini-vacation? And, two, Ahmadinejad said that he has serious doubts that his country is supplying arms to the Taliban in Afghanistan. And he says that the United States just wants -- doesn't want Afghanistan and Iran to be friends. But Gates has said the opposite, and Bush pretty much agreed with him up in Camp David, so do you have anything on that?

MS. PERINO: First of all, the question was what the President is doing at his ranch this week. Again, I don't expect to have detailed readouts on this every day. But what the President loves to do when he's at his ranch is to spend time outdoors. And I know today that they were maybe going to do some trail building, some bike trail building that they do out there, so that they can then mountain bike. And I wouldn't be surprised if the President got in some fishing, as well as some time with his wife, Laura, Mrs. Bush, and maybe other family and friends. If other family and friends do arrive, and I'm able to provide that information, I certainly will.

But I think that we should just all expect that this week, with the President not having any public events, that when he's out on his ranch what he loves to do is spend time in the outdoors; he loves to get his exercise. And I would expect that there would be some brush cutting to do, although it is 107 degrees, so I don't know how many people are going to be able to stand it. The President, obviously, likes the heat, so maybe everyone else is just going to have to suffer through it.

On the second question you asked, which is regarding the President of Iran being in Afghanistan, yes, of course the President stands by what Secretary Gates has reported, and what General Petraeus has reported about what they are finding in terms of weapons in Iraq, and then again the NATO troops and what they're saying out of Afghanistan. And if the President of Iran believes that that is not to be the case, well, then -- I don't know how to reconcile those two things. I think that we put our trust in our intelligence, and what we're hearing from our security forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.

As to the visit, the President has said as early as -- as late as just last week that it is important for Afghanistan and for Iraq to have good relations with its neighbors. We understand how important that is, having good relations with the two neighbors to our north and our south. So beyond that, I don't think we'll have any comment.

Q Following Karl's departure, Dana, do you have a sense of how strategy and tactics may change, in terms of showdowns with Congress?

MS. PERINO: Well, I think we're going to have to see, in terms of how much of a showdown Congress wants to have. The President has said that he needs the appropriations bills to his desk -- they have not sent him one. So the showdown actually might be within the Democratic Party while they need to reconcile with one another before they can come and have a conversation with the President about the budget priorities that they're going to place.

We are going to have some fights on our hands; we know that. We are going to be asking for the FISA law that was just modernized last week, and which the President signed before he left for Maine, to be made permanent. Right now there is a sunset on it, and we think that's inappropriate. So we're going to be asking for that to be made permanent. Obviously, there is going to be a report from Ambassador Crocker and General David Petraeus in September. We'll have to take a look at those.

But how that effects -- that is not going to change just because Karl is deciding to leave us. And while we will miss having his voice at the table -- and as he said yesterday, the President and he have each other's phone numbers, I'm sure they're not going to be shy about calling one another. And there are people around the White House, including new people that we have, including Ed Gillespie, who can help fill that strategic communications role as well.

Q I'm wondering if you have a sense of White House priorities going forward. Obviously, August is a time to kind of re-focus on what's ahead, and if you have a sense of how much is left in the tank, in terms of getting legislation through?

MS. PERINO: The Chief of Staff, Josh Bolten, made a comment yesterday that I think is accurate, which is, while the window on major legislation might be closing, there is certainly enough time to get some things done, especially in the foreign policy realm. We are going to continue to push for our judges to be confirmed. I think that Senator Leahy had said that he would do one a month, but I think that they've fallen short of that in the Senate. We are going to continue to push for the No Child Left Behind reauthorization. We have health care legislation that we're interested in pursuing. We also have energy legislation that the House and the Senate have tried to push through. But it's certainly not as bold as what the President would have liked to have seen, and so we're going to push them more on that.

What the President would like to do is reduce gasoline consumption in the country by 20 percent within 10 years, and replace it with alternative fuels. That's something that the Congress has there for the taking, for them to bring up and debate on the House floor, and decide how they want to move forward, in terms of energy legislation.

Beyond that, we're going to have areas in regards to free trade -- we want those free trade agreements with Colombia and Peru and South Korea, as well as the Doha round, to be completed. So we have a lot of things that we can get done. I think I would put it this way, that there is enough time to get a lot done, but we can't afford to waste a single day.


Q Dana, can you elaborate a little bit on the conversation with Mr. Singh, especially the civil nuclear pact? What were they discussing -- making changes to it, the way it's been received in India, the way it's been received in the United States?

MS. PERINO: I don't have specific details as to what they both said, but what I would point out to you is that the President and Prime Minister Singh have been very supportive of it, as it is debated there in India. We'll see if we can get you some more, in terms of how we can support Prime Minister Singh. The civil nuclear agreement has many wonderful aspects to it, one of them being bringing India into the system of some monitoring and compliance.

But in addition to that, you have a country that has explosive population that very much needs access to clean-burning electricity, of which nuclear power certainly would be. And that would help raise economic levels across the country, help with their job -- help create jobs, as well as make sure that people aren't suffering from the ill effects that you can get from traditional energy uses like coal, that can harm people's health. And nuclear power, obviously, doesn't have greenhouse gases, which can contribute to helping us reach the goals that the President has set for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Remember that the President, at the end of September, September 27th and 28th, has invited the major emitting countries, including India, to come to a conference that the State Department will host on greenhouse gas emissions. And so that will be one of the topics, as well. If we can get more, we will.

Q Also the Japanese media is reporting that the President had planned and then canceled a stop in Japan as part of his travels in early September -- the travels that are anchored on the APEC forum. Can you confirm that that kind of a trip was in the planning stages, and that it was canceled because of the --

MS. PERINO: The trip that we announced is the trip that we're doing. And, obviously, there's a lot of -- going into September that we're going to have to be contending with, as Congress returns. But I would decline to comment as to any other possible travel plans.


Q Dana, do you want to respond to a new ad that Senator Clinton is running in Iowa, in which he claims and charges that people without health care coverage are invisible to this President, and that U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are invisible to this President>

MS. PERINO: Well, this is going to be tricky going into the campaign season, when people start running ads, because as tempted as I am to take that head on, I think I will refer to the RNC for the specific -- for answers on the politics of it. But as to the merits of it, I think it's outrageous. This is a President who, first and foremost, has helped millions of seniors across the country have access to prescription drugs at a much lower cost. That system that the President put in -- helped put in place, with the help of both sides of Congress, Republicans and Democrats, Medicare Part D, is helping millions of people, and working better than anyone would have expected. In addition to that, the President has tried to take on the issue at the root cause of it, and tried to change our health care system so that we actually are helping provide less expensive but still great quality care to people all over the country.

And as to whether or not our troops are invisible to this President, I think that that is absurd, and that is unconscionable that a member of Congress would say such a thing.

Go ahead.

Q How might Karl Rove's duties be distributed? Might we see someone new coming in to take over part of them, and then the rest be distributed, or just having the responsibilities redistributed across the --

MS. PERINO: The Chief of Staff, Josh Bolten, has said that he does not anticipate bringing in someone from the outside, and that there will likely be a redistribution of Karl's duties across the White House. Not ready to make any announcement on that yet. Stay tuned, and we'll let you know as soon as we can.

Q There was some talk yesterday that there would not be a one-to-one replacement. Does that mean there will be maybe two, three people doing Karl Rove's job?

MS. PERINO: It's possible. If you think about all of the things that Karl Rove was responsible for, he had I think maybe 60 people who reported to him directly -- the Office of Public Liaison, the Office of Political Affairs, and the Office of Strategic Initiatives, among others. So that's a lot for one person to handle. Obviously Karl did it very well; better than probably anybody else could do. When you have an opportunity like this, and a challenge -- it is both a challenge and an opportunity as Karl is leaving, then I think that the Chief of Staff will make those decisions based on whatever he thinks is the best way to serve the President. And as soon as we can give you more, we will.

Q Dana, with the departures of Dan Bartlett, Rob Portman and now Karl Rove, does the President feel he's being abandoned?

MS. PERINO: No, I don't think that at all. If you look at the -- just look at Ed Gillespie, one of the most talented communicators and political strategists of our time, wanted to come and work for this President to replace Dan. These people have very different circumstances, but they all -- surround family. Obviously, Dan Bartlett became a husband and then a father to three young boys under the age of three who he needed to spend some more time with. The President never would have stood in his way to go spend some more time with his family. Rob Portman, who had first served as a member of Congress, and then moved on to work in the administration, has three teenaged children, and he very much wanted to help his wife raise those children back in Ohio. And Karl Rove gave you his explanation yesterday.

And I think that one thing to remember is that this President has had remarkable longevity of staff; people have stayed many, many years. And if you compare how many years people have stayed with this President, compared to others, I think it is the measure of the President. And that's why we stay as long as we do. But it is not without some hardship and sacrifice on the part of the staff, whoever the staff member is, but even more importantly, the family, because for us, we're getting to do things that is a part of making history. And for our families, they sometimes sit on the sidelines and take a backseat.

And I find myself apologizing to my husband many times for not hearing what he said, because I was looking at my BlackBerry. So now I have made a public -- I'm very sorry, but I do that very often. And, you know, taking calls on the weekends and things. We also have very supportive families. But there comes a time when you know that it's the right thing to do, which is to leave. And the President appreciates everyone's service very much, and he also appreciates the fact that we all very much care about our families.

Q Mattel Incorporated announced that they'll be recalling 14 million toys with lead products in them. Two months ago, I believe, the President announced a panel on this. I was wondering if you could give us an update on this --

MS. PERINO: I don't think it was two months ago. I think it was just about a month ago. I'll see if there's an update on that. Secretary Leavitt is heading that up, and I have not -- I don't know an update. We can ask Tony Fratto, who is back at the White House. He's on point on that issue for us back at the White House, so maybe if you could check with him, as well.

Q Should we expect any recess appointments in the coming days?

MS. PERINO: That is a good question. I don't know. Let me check.

END 12:11 P.M. CDT