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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 24, 2007

Press Briefing by Dana Perino
James S. Brady Briefing Room

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12:49 P.M. EDT

MS. PERINO: Hello. I have two announcements and then a scheduling update, and then we'll go to questions. First of all, this is a statement by the President that we will release, so this is in his words: The confirmation of Judge Leslie Southwick to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit is a victory for America's judicial system and for the citizens of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Today's bipartisan vote resolves a longstanding judicial emergency and will help the people of the 5th Circuit operate more effectively. Judge Southwick is a man of character and intelligence who will apply the law fairly. And I appreciate the Senate's approval of his nomination.

While today's vote resolves one judicial emergency, many of America's federal courts continue to have unnecessary vacancies. I have now nominated highly qualified men and women to serve on these courts. Now the Senate must act. In the final two years of the past three administrations the Senate has confirmed an average of 17 circuit court judges, but since January of this year, the Senate has confirmed only five circuit court nominees. The Senate has more work to do. I once again call upon the Senate to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities and promptly provide these nominees fair up or down votes.

An update on Burma. The United States applauds Australia's actions today for placing sanctions on 418 individuals associated with the Burmese junta, including members of the State Peace and Development Council, cabinet ministers and senior military figures. As President Bush said on Friday, business as usual with the Burmese junta is unacceptable. And we welcome the strong actions of the Howard government. Australia is helping to reenforce the international community's message that Than Shwe and his fellow junta members cannot continue to oppress the Burmese people, and that progress toward democracy is necessary. We call on others to follow the example set by Australia and other like-minded countries to make sure that it is not business as usual for those who deny the Burmese people their liberties.

An update for the trip on Thursday -- we don't have specific details so bear with us. This gives -- giving you a little bit more information about what will happen tomorrow. The President will depart the White House early tomorrow morning for southern California. He will participate in an aerial tour of the damage via helicopter upon arrival. The pool will participate in the same tour. The President will receive a briefing by local, state and administration officials on the wildfires, and the President will return to the White House late tomorrow evening. And we are working on a more detailed schedule for you and as soon as we have that, we will provide it. I would anticipate it a little bit later this afternoon.

Let's go to questions.

Q Can I ask about the federal help to California? Is the government -- is the federal government going to wait for requests for help, or is it going to jump in where it sees the need? How does that work?

MS. PERINO: Well, I think it's a coordinated effort there on the ground with -- Secretary Chertoff and Administrator Paulison are there, as well as DOD officials, USDA officials, Department of Interior officials, everyone working together. And I think that if there are requests we'll certainly provide them, but if we can see an area where we can provide more help then we can suggest that. I think that it's more of a team effort than people operating in silos.

Q And has, in the feedback that you're getting, is there -- what's the response of California about what you've provided? Are they asking for more or --

MS. PERINO: President Bush has asked the Governor on several occasions as they've spoken over the past two -- well, Monday and Tuesday; they haven't spoken today -- if he was getting everything that he needed. He said that he was and the response from California so far has been good. I understand Dianne Feinstein on Capitol Hill just said the same. So the effort for tomorrow is that the President will go -- he wants to see firsthand the devastation. He wants to make sure that he talks with the federal, state and local officials that are working on the effort there on the ground to make sure that we are doing everything we can to help those who are fighting the blazes. And he also wants to comfort the victims who have lost their homes or their businesses, or are worried that they've lost their homes and businesses. And so right now the coordinated efforts seem to be working very well, and the President wants to make sure that that continues. It's one of the reasons he's going tomorrow.

Q Has anybody talked to the private insurance companies? There was some issue in Louisiana about a feeling that people who suffered losses weren't getting reimbursed by private insurance companies.

MS. PERINO: I don't know if that has happened yet. Obviously, that is something that people, as they start talking to their insurance company, will have to deal with. But having gone through this many times before, like with the tornado in Kansas and Katrina and the tornados I think down in Alabama, it is an issue that we'll take care of when we get to that point. I think it's a little bit premature, and I haven't heard anyone talking about it yet.

Q Dana --

MS. PERINO: I'm sorry, just to finish up. A lot of people who are there in the shelters don't know if their homes have been destroyed or not, or if their businesses have been destroyed. So they haven't even been able to call their insurance company because they don't know. So it's just a little premature.

Q Dana, the fact that the President will be on the ground tomorrow in southern California, how much is that a reflection of lessons learned by the White House that -- from Katrina that even though the President may be engaged behind the scenes, there's a need -- the public wants to see him more involved?

MS. PERINO: Remember -- we've gone -- these fires are not the same disaster that we had in Katrina. There's so many differences. Katrina wiped out 90,000 square miles of the United States, and there was no electricity, there was no sewer system. And they knew for days that the storm was coming. This is just a very different situation. The President visits disasters -- any President visits disasters regularly. And I think that -- I would not see the President's visit tomorrow as part of lessons learned. I actually would look to more of -- look at the coordination efforts amongst the state, federal and local governments that are working to make sure that everybody has what they need.

For example, evacuation planning is one of the things that people learned about after Katrina, that local jurisdictions need to have a plan. And according to the Homeland Security Council, the local jurisdictions have done a tremendous job of managing the evacuation there in southern California. There are rapid changes to respond to when you have shifting winds in a fire like that, and so they've done a very good job because of their advanced preparation and their efforts.

Another thing that we've worked on with state and federal -- state and local governments is prescripted mission assignments, so that there is a lot of pre-planning, pre-positioning of assets when they know something is going to happen. As I mentioned earlier today, Secretary Kempthorne who runs the Fire Center that is based in Boise, they knew that this was coming and so they started to pre-position assets that they had to be able to provide.

And then the most critical point I think is the close collaboration between the state, federal and local partners. And you have everyone working together for the same goal, lots of early and often communication, and that's one of the reasons I think you've seen a difference.

Q Dana, following on that?

MS. PERINO: Okay.

Q You're talking about the evacuation planning and the communication, but doesn't it help that income plays a significant part, with New Orleans versus San Diego? You have -- evacuation in New Orleans -- 27 percent of the New Orleans residents that were there did not have vehicles, versus 5 percent in San Diego; they're able to move.

MS. PERINO: Vehicles are very important, but I don't think any natural disaster discriminates or chooses who they're -- where it's going to hit. When it does hit an area that is poor or needs additional public assistance, that's provided. As you know, we've given $110 billion federal taxpayer dollars to Louisiana and the Gulf Coast region in order to help them rebuild.

I don't know what the price tag is going to be in California, and right now the price tag is not a consideration. Making sure that people are taken care of is what we're most concerned about.

Q But you do admit, at least, that scenarios, income-levels, people who have a little bit more money are able to move, go somewhere, versus people who don't --

MS. PERINO: I think that's logical. Absolutely that happens. And I think that when we see hurricanes that hit -- for example, when the hurricane hit Haiti, it affects people differently, and a lot of people lost shelter completely and didn't have anywhere else to go. We are fortunate in the United States that we have generous people that are willing to provide shelter. We have a system in place, a system of government that allows people to get a hotel voucher if they need it. And then because of the President's signing the disaster declaration today, that provides for additional assistance for individuals such as if they are looking for crisis counseling, if they need food coupons, whatever they need to get back on their feet. We're very fortunate in America to have the means to take care of our citizens.

Q And lastly, on the HUD issue that I asked you yesterday, do you know anything -- can you talk about the national housing locator that's in place, how is that going to affect the displaced now in San Diego?

MS. PERINO: In San Diego? It's a little --

Q California.

MS. PERINO: In California? It's premature to say, but Secretary Jackson was here today and -- he was there at the Cabinet meeting, and one of the things that the President talked about at the very top of the meeting was that all the agencies are going to have to take a look at what they could do, and the HUD part of it comes in just a little bit later.

Any more on this?

Q You were talking about all the differences between disasters. Does the White House feel that it's unfair to compare the federal response to, say, what's happening in California now to what happened in New Orleans with Katrina?

MS. PERINO: I think it's inevitable. I am not one to think that a massive hurricane, the largest hurricane to ever hit the United States, is comparable to the fires. But I understand that the comparison is going to be there. So I'm not going to call it unfair, no.

Anybody else on fires?

Q California is a huge part of this country's economy, and especially that part of California. Has there been any consideration yet about the economic impact from these fires?

MS. PERINO: I haven't heard conversation about that. Obviously the most important thing right now is keeping people safe and getting them back into their homes, or at least getting them the information that their home and their business is -- has survived. We've had several deaths and many injuries, so first and foremost you have to worry about that.

The economic impacts are something that we're going to have to deal with. California is a very resilient state. They have many natural disasters that have come to -- come into its borders over the years. Fires is one of them, but they have earthquakes, as you'll remember, and California has a tremendous ability to bounce back. And there will be federal assistance if it's needed in that regard, too. But it's a wonderful place to live and people like to do business there, so I think they'll be just fine.

Any more on fires? Okay, Jim.

Q Dana, I wanted to ask you about the CBO estimate for the cost of Iraq and Afghanistan. Why is that $2.4 trillion figure wrong?

MS. PERINO: Well, part of it is that when you start having all -- just a ton of speculation. It's a hypothetical that was created based on questions that Democrats in Congress who don't want us to be in the war asked the Congressional Budget Office to provide. Our force structure in Iraq and Afghanistan has fluctuated. Already this year, the President said that 5,700 troops would come home by December. We don't know what the costs are going to be over the years, and so because that fluctuates, it's just wildly premature to put out a number like that.

Q Okay, so what might be a more reasonable estimate? I'm sure folks at OMB have their own counter.

MS. PERINO: Look, spending to fight the global war on terror is an investment in our security and it is something that the President is committed to prioritizing in the budget. We hope that Congress would agree. We don't know how much the war is going to cost in the future. We do our best to try to provide those projections, as we did last February when we sent up the budget and we said we think this is how much we're going to need, $146 billion -- $149 billion. We added $46 billion to that in the supplemental that we asked for last week.

You can't project that far into the future. We are starting to see good signs of success -- I'm sorry -- signs of progress in Iraq. We want those trend lines to continue. We want our troops to have the force protection they need, the equipment that they need, and the care for our wounded warriors and their families need to be factored into this, as well. But $2.4 trillion is pure speculation.

Q If you can say it's inaccurate and others can say it's wildly inaccurate, surely there must be some kind of quantifiable sense as to what this --

MS. PERINO: I think what they looked at 10 years ago -- the answer is we just don't operate that way in terms of providing a federal budget. We provide as much information as we can, but there are changing conditions on the ground and it's just -- it would not serve the public well to put out numbers that we don't have any confidence in.

Q Is that number -- if that number turned out to be somewhere close to accurate, do you think that would be a reasonable amount of money to be spending on the war --

MS. PERINO: You're asking me another hypothetical question; if that were to be true. I'm not going to answer that.

Q -- that doesn't strike you as --

MS. PERINO: Look, what I can tell you is that I'm not going to worry about the number. What I'm worried about is making sure that the President gets what he needs in order to provide the safety and security for the country. And we have spent a lot of money on the global war on terror. I think we're spending it smartly and we are going to continue to do that. And whoever comes in as President is January of 2009, I'm sure when they sit down and have their first briefing is that they're going to feel the same way.

Roger.

Q Dana, could I follow up on that?

MS. PERINO: Sure.

Q For fiscal '09, there's a $50 million placeholder for it. Given the fact that the supplemental --

MS. PERINO: $50 million?

Q -- $50 billion, I'm sorry.

MS. PERINO: Go again.

Q Given the fact that the request for '08 in the supplemental is now $250 billion, is $50 billion for '09 seem realistic?

MS. PERINO: Again, what we try to do is, as we said back in February, we're going to try to provide Congress with as much information as we possible can, but it's -- and I believe Rob Portman, who was the OMB Director at the time, said it's too difficult to project that far into the future because we don't know what the commanders on the ground are going to need. One of the reasons that we've asked for an additional $46 billion is because General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker came back, gave their congressionally-mandated testimony, reported to the President, and the President said, carry on, fulfill this plan, and come back in March and tell us how it's going, provide a progress update. So it's just -- it's difficult to try to project this too far into the future.

Any more on that? Okay, I'm going to go to John.

Q Back on the CDC testimony. You said this morning that Dr. Gerberding's testimony was not watered down. Can you tell us why it was altered to leave out any discussion of serious health effects relating to global warming, and to leave out her original comment that, "CDC considers climate change a serious public health concern"?

MS. PERINO: Look, I haven't seen the specific edits. What I can tell you is that she's giving a speech today at the Atlanta Press Club and she plans to address this issue. Little bit about -- take a step back. This administration's policy on climate change is an open book. There is robust information about where we stand on policy, on the science, on the initiatives, and on the international cooperation that we have initiated under this President.

One of the things that happens under our administration and previous administrations is that testimony comes to a process where everyone gets a chance to have a look at it. In this case, the testimony I believe came a little bit less than 24 hours before it was going to be given. The CDC, they are the experts when it comes to disease vectors. There are experts that deal specifically with climate science. For example, at USDA, people who work on crop rotation issues and the health of crops know how climate change is going to affect -- they can study how climate change might affect crops. At EPA they consider how climate change will relate to public health and air benefits -- I'm sorry, air quality. And somebody like NOAA would look at the weather-related events.

CDC's specific responsibility is on public health, and she testified about that yesterday. And one of the things that she told us this morning, late morning, is that she, at the Atlanta Press Club, is going to reiterate that she in no way felt inhibited or hindered by what she was going to say. But when you take a very complicated issue, like climate change science, and you have the International Panel on Climate Change, which reported last spring -- this is a study that the United States largely funded, and that we embraced in its conclusions -- as I understand it, in the draft there was broad characterizations about climate change science that didn't align with the IPCC.

And we have experts and scientists across this administration that can take a look at that testimony and say, this is an error, or this doesn't make sense. And so the decision on behalf of CDC was to focus that testimony on public health benefits -- there are public health benefits to climate change, as well, but both benefits and concerns that somebody like a Dr. Gerberding, who is the expert in the field, could address. And so that's the testimony that she provided yesterday, and I would refer you to her comments in Atlanta today, as well.

Q Can you just describe what the problem was? I mean, was it going too far? Were these alarmist --

MS. PERINO: No, I think what it is, is when you take -- when you try to summarize what is a very complicated issue and you have many different experts who have a lot of opinions, and you get testimony less than 24 hours before it's going to be given, you -- scientists across the administration were taking a look at it, and there were a decision that she would focus where she is an expert, which is on CDC.

Anybody who wants to look at what the President thinks about climate change looks -- needs to only look back three weeks ago to when he gave a major address on climate change when he invited all 15 of the major economies of this world to come together to work on a solution -- work on a path to get to a solution to help the growth of greenhouse gas emissions. And we have an open book on the subject.

Q But would it have been outside her purview to say that the CDC considers climate change a serious public health concern?

MS. PERINO: No, I think that -- she has said that before. And in fact, she just -- she was telling us that she has co-authored a -- one of the folks there at CDC has just co-authored a major paper that ran in a publication about that very issue. So CDC is on record saying that climate change is a public health concern, and we agree.

Q What is the current U.S. assessment of Fidel Castro's health, and did that play any role at all in the timing for the President's speech today?

MS. PERINO: Well, what we do know is he's still alive. We don't have any other information about the state of his health or how he's feeling. But clearly we are nearing -- he's nearing the twilight years, the end of his life, and because of that, we see a groundswell of support growing in Cuba for democracy. And what the President will do today is stand up for those deprived of their fundamental rights in Cuba.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights should apply to everybody and everyone in the Western Hemisphere. People of Cuba don't necessarily get to have those benefits. And the President will stand up today and say that we are not asking countries to endorse our embargo policy, but we are asking them to seriously consider helping those people get to a democracy. There are many countries who have been helpful that -- with that in the past. To name a few, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland has been very supportive. But they -- pro-democracy activists in the UK and France and Germany have also supported human rights in Cuba, and the President will have a very strong speech in just about 20 minutes.

Q To follow on that, Cuba's Foreign Minister told Prensa Latina that President Bush is "obsessed with Cuba," saying "the President sees his mandate coming to an end, has been unable to make Cuba surrender and get the results the mafia and the Cuban ultra-right wing in Miami were expecting." Do you have a response?

MS. PERINO: Our policy is based on supporting human rights in Cuba. The President has spoken out about it several times. The President is obsessed with human rights -- if that is an accusation that they want to lodge against the President, we'll take it as a compliment. He is obsessed with human rights. He believes everybody is born with the right to be free, and that includes the people of Cuba. And he doesn't want the international community to turn a blind eye to what they're going to go through in this transition.

Q You talked about scheduling for this speech, that it was a speech in the making for quite some time, that the President met with dissident families last week. Yet is this also a scheduling issue because the U.N. General Assembly is about to vote on this Cuban resolution --

MS. PERINO: No.

Q -- to demand the end to the embargo on October 30th?

MS. PERINO: No, and in fact -- no, the National Security background official last night said that he couldn't even remember what the date was. I can tell you that President Bush has wanted to give a speech about Cuba for a while. We looked at the calendar; this was the best date that worked for him being in town and for us to be able to give this speech. And I think the date is less important than what he's going to say. I will tell you, he will meet with some dissident families, as well, today before the speech, and they will be there in the audience.

Anyone else on Cuba? Okay, Peter.

Q Back on the CDC, Dana. You said many experts have a lot of opinions. So why wasn't the Senate committee able to hear Dr. Gerberding's full opinion? Why were 10 pages of 14 taken out?

MS. PERINO: I disagree, Peter. I think that she was able to give her full opinion, and she will say so, as well. I talked to her -- we talked to her today; Tony Fratto did. And she feels that this is being blown out of proportion; that she was able to provide Congress with her thinking and her expertise on this issue.

Clearly we think climate change is a problem. We know that the Earth is warming. We believe that humans are largely responsible. And the President has initiated a process so that we can get to a framework to have discussions about how to end global warming after 2012. I shouldn't say "end global warming" -- we know it's going to happen -- how we can help curtail it and stop the growth of greenhouse gas emissions.

Q Is it typical for the White House to cut that much of an administration official's prepared --

MS. PERINO: I don't look at -- what I can tell you, it is typical for us to review testimony that comes across. And I think that when you have an issue as large as climate change and as complicated -- and the White House reaches out to all sorts of scientists across the administration when it comes to climate change -- if they have concerns that the IPCC document, which we agreed to its conclusions on, does not align with the testimony, that the prudent thing to do is to move forward, to have her testimony -- remember, we only suggest the edits. CDC made the decision as to what testimony they were going to provide. And so Dr. Gerberding feels very comfortable with what she provided.

Q So some of the senators are asking to see the full, uncut version. Will the CDC supply that to them?

MS. PERINO: Well, I'm sure there will be a request, and we'll talk to them and we'll see. I'm not prepared to say whether or not they'll turn it over.

Q It's being circulated by some outside groups, doctors groups and so forth, that had access to it beforehand.

MS. PERINO: It's likely that there will be a request. And I'm not prepared, from this podium, to be able to say whether they'll turn it over or not.

Q Why wouldn't they?

MS. PERINO: This is a CDC document, it's not a White House document.

Q Who initiated the communication between Dr. Gerberding and the White House today?

MS. PERINO: We called to find out -- her spokesperson is quoted in several of the stories that ran this morning, saying that she was very comfortable with her testimony and did not feel inhibited. We wanted to call and make sure that he was quoted accurately. So that's why we reached out to him.

Q There's another CDC in that article -- another CDC official was saying that the testimony was "eviscerated," which is pretty -- I guess accusing the White House of playing very heavy hands.

MS. PERINO: I understand what they're accusing us of, but I can -- I just reject it. I will tell you that, again, we believe climate change is real; we believe that humans are largely responsible; we are working on a way to solve the problem. And in the meantime, we are working with experts like Julie Gerberding to figure out what are going to be the health benefits and the health concerns of climate change, of which there are many. And she testified fully on it yesterday.

Anybody else on this? Okay.

Q As I'm sure you're aware, there have been a lot of scientists that have gone before Congress and have said that their testimony has been edited, and that it has been basically -- I wouldn't say eviscerated, but with certain things not included in the testimony --

MS. PERINO: I think you're -- I know of one instance that you're referring to, Paula, and I will tell you that, once again, it was edited to make sure that it comported and aligned with the science that was provided by our own National Academy of Sciences. There are experts in this area that can look at it and know exactly what they would say to make sure that it's in line with the science. If you're not an expert on the science, I think -- to me, it makes sense to ask an expert on the science if what you're saying is accurate. And if we are guided by the IPCC document and our own National Academy of Sciences, I think that's pretty good company.

Q One of the issues that was edited was the human factor, the involvement of the human factor in --

MS. PERINO: We are on record -- Paula, Paula, that was several years ago, and it was based exactly upon the words -- you can take it right there in the black and white from the National Academy of Sciences document, which is what the President asked for and what he accepted when he got it.

Q I have a question relating to the DREAM Act.

MS. PERINO: Anybody else on this?

Q Just one quick -- following up on what Jim was getting at. Did you ask -- did the White House ask her to go before this Atlanta press audience?

MS. PERINO: No, she already had it scheduled, and she said she wanted to address it.

Q She had a previous speech scheduled --

MS. PERINO: Yes.

Q -- or a speech on this --

MS. PERINO: She had an appearance at the Atlanta Press Club scheduled, and she said she wanted to address this.

Q Did she have to get your permission to do that?

MS. PERINO: Absolutely not. Just as she didn't have to ask permission to publish a commentary in the Journal of American Medical Association, JAMA.

Q On?

MS. PERINO: On the public health concerns of climate change, which just recently got published. It was one of the things that she was going to bring up. Those types of things don't go through White House -- testimony does, which is different.

Q The administration put out a SAP today on the DREAM Act. And the point being made was that it felt that preferential legal status was being made to certain alien minors. My question is, some of those alien minors who have served either in the military for two years or attended college for two years, the administration objects to them getting permanent status. And I just wondered why there's an objection -- if alien minors can serve in the military for two years, why does the administration feel that they shouldn't be given permanent legal status?

MS. PERINO: Paula, we continue to believe that the best way to address this issue is through a comprehensive bill, one that would put border security and interior security first, and that creates a temporary worker program and helps immigrants assimilate into our society. You may recall in the immigration debate we supported an alternative to the DREAM Act, in the context of overall comprehensive immigration reform. That's obviously what is not being considered now, and we will review it. But I would note that the President has not supported it as a standalone measure in the past.

Q Dana, Prime Minister Maliki said he's going to close the PKK offices in Iraq. Prime Minister Maliki made the same promise in September of last year. Why should Turkey trust Prime Minister Maliki on this?

MS. PERINO: I did look into that, Olivier, and we can understand why the Turks would be skeptical, because that pledge was made. It does need to be fulfilled. We'll be talking to the Iraqis about that, as well.

Q And one more. You mentioned that there are health benefits to climate change. Could you describe some of those?

MS. PERINO: Sure. In some cases, there are -- look, this is an issue where I'm sure lots of people would love to ridicule me when I say this, but it is true that many people die from cold-related deaths every winter. And there are studies that say that climate change in certain areas of the world would help those individuals. There are also concerns that it would increase tropical diseases and that's -- again, I'm not an expert in that, I'm going to let Julie Gerberding testify in regards to that, but there are many studies about this that you can look into.

Q Can you just explain why the administration takes issue with the CBO's projections of the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it's perfectly reasonable to put out -- OMB puts out a five-, 10-year budget deficit projections?

MS. PERINO: Well, remember the budget deficit projections include our war costs, and so we look at those, that's a -- we do projections for the budget and the deficit every year. That's a pretty good economic -- they have it down to a science over at OMB. We're not always a nation at war and that is different and there are changing circumstances on the ground, and when you don't know what the generals are going to need, then you have to wait and see. That's why we think it's too speculative to put out a number like CBO did.

Q So how can OMB then put out that five-, 10-year budget projection if they don't know, for instance, how long the war will go five or 10 years out?

MS. PERINO: As I said, we try to take as many -- we take into account the projections that we can. In the budget deficit projections that we have we have included those war costs in the past -- I can't remember -- the past, I think five years -- I'm sorry, four years, but Sean Kavelighan at OMB can give you more information about it. He was here talking to me about it earlier. We just don't think that it's appropriate to wildly speculate and throw out a number like $2.4 trillion that is based on just hypotheticals. It's just -- it's not a smart way to run a railroad.

Les.

Q Thank you, Dana. Two questions: The AP reports from Denver that Senator Clinton said that if elected she would "consider giving up some of the executive powers assumed by President Bush and Vice President Cheney." And my question: Does the White House know of any such powers assumed by the Bush administration that do not constitutionally belong to the President and the Vice President?

MS. PERINO: I'm not going to comment on her comments. I can refer you to the RNC for those or to her campaign.

Q Therefore, what's your --

MS. PERINO: The President and the Vice President operate within the Constitution.

Q Therefore, the White House considers this more of candidate Clinton's sometimes --

MS. PERINO: Okay, that's it. That's it. No, moving on.

Go ahead.

Q -- astonishing rhetoric, wouldn't you say that?

MS. PERINO: No.

Q You wouldn't?

Q Dana, this morning Secretary Rice testified in front of the House Foreign Relations Committee and said that errors were made in the case of Maher Arar -- the rendition of Arar to Syria, where he was tortured, and that changes have to be made. Is the White House aware of this? And if so, what sort of changes is the administration thinking of in cases of rendition?

MS. PERINO: I'm not -- I didn't have a chance to see her testimony because I was in the Cabinet Room, so we'll have to get back to you. And I would also note -- I saw a picture from that hearing where a lady in Code Pink with red painted on her hands disrupted the hearing. And I think it's despicable. And unfortunately, it seems that increasingly Congress is being run by Code Pink. We do thank Chairman Lantos for trying to restore order to that hearing.

Q There's a quote extensively that during a telephone communication yesterday between President Bush and the Turkish President, U.S. government is considering now seriously air strikes including cruise missiles against PKK Kurdish rebels -- any comment on that?

MS. PERINO: No comment on that. And I will just remind you, is that we are trying to encourage the Iraqis and the Turks to work cooperatively with one another. Obviously Turkey has a right to defend itself. They have eight soldiers that are missing right now. They have a right to look for them. And what we would urge is that when they go after the PKK that they have it -- that they make that targeted and limited just to that action.

END 1:22 P.M. EDT