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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 20, 2007

Press Gaggle by Dana Perino
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

9:28 A.M. EST

Q Last briefing of the week.

MS. PERINO: That's true. That's true. Let me just give you the schedule and one little statement, and then we'll go to questions. The President had his normal briefings at 8:00 a.m. At 10:15 a.m., he is going to pardon the National Thanksgiving Turkeys. That will be in the Rose Garden. These turkeys and the alternate are from Dubois, Indiana. I hope I'm saying that correctly -- Dubois, Indiana. Anyone from Indiana?

Q Dubois.

MS. PERINO: Dubois -- thank you. And they were raised under the direction of the National Turkey Federation chairman, whose name is Ted Seger. And then for the fifth year in a row, the White House has held a contest on the website where you can choose the names of these turkeys, and those will be unveiled by the President at 10:15 a.m. So news out of there today.

At 11:00 a.m., the President and Mrs. Bush will depart for Camp David, where they will remain until Saturday. They're coming back Saturday at 1:15 p.m., now. At 11:55 a.m., the President and Mrs. Bush are going to be interviewed by Charlie Gibson of ABC World News, at Camp David. Following that, and following tradition, the President and Mrs. Bush will be interviewed by People Magazine for their special year-end issue. And as I mentioned, he'll return Saturday afternoon.

One comment on supplemental war funding. Congress, as you know, is away for its two-week break. They did not approve funding for our troops. Deputy Secretary Gordon England has said that these delays will result in a profoundly negative impact on the defense civilian workforce, depot maintenance, base operations, and training activities. Delays in funding mean that the Army and Marine Corps are immediately forced to begin shifting funds between accounts in order to keep operations running. And the Pentagon will soon be forced to send furlough notices for as many as 100,000 Army and Marine Corps civilian employees at bases around the country.

We are calling on Congress and the Democrats in Congress to send the President supplemental war funding without arbitrary surrender dates and without micromanaging the war before they leave for their next vacation, which is going to be around the Christmas holidays. They only have about six legislative working days left, so they have a lot of work to do when they get back into town.

Q Are you saying that these furloughs would begin before they come back from this vacation?

MS. PERINO: The notices. I'm not sure of the date. I know that they have to notice because under the rules you have to give people, I think it is 60 to 90 days worth of notice that they could be furloughed. So that could happen.

Q So this is a way to remind Congress that you want them to pass this bill?

MS. PERINO: That's exactly what that was.

Q So you're making them suffer --

MS. PERINO: I'm making the Democrats suffer?

Q No, you're making the civilians who work for the Defense --

MS. PERINO: Oh, no, it is not us who are making any civilians suffer.

Q There ought to be --

MS. PERINO: We are calling on Congress to --

Q How many billions have we spent already for the Defense Department?

MS. PERINO: The Defense Department says that they need this funding in order to keep the war running, as well as to keep these civilians -

Q Maybe they don't want the war to keep running.

MS. PERINO: Well, I think that that has been --

Q The country doesn't want it --

MS. PERINO: I think that Americans have seen what our troops have been able to do this year, in trying -- is starting to turn things around in Iraq. We've got a long way to go, but they have started to make some significant gains, and to pull the rug out from under them now seems to be -- seems irresponsible.

Q To keep killing you mean.

MS. PERINO: Helen, every -- the security situation in Baghdad is vastly improved, because of what our troops have been able to do, working alongside of the Iraqis. I can't imagine that they would not want to fund these troops before they go home for Christmas. They have gone to Iraq, many members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats, have gone to Iraq. They've seen for themselves what's happening on the ground there. They've had briefings from General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker. They are working very hard to make sure that they -- these trends that we're starting to see can actually take hold and be cemented, and so that they can continue the progress --

Q More people are dying every day in Iraq.

MS. PERINO: There's no doubt that there continues to be violence. But we do know that because of what we have been able to put in place as the result of the surge, we have less death, less violence, and we have some of troops starting to come home.

Q Have the invitations gone out for the Annapolis conference?

MS. PERINO: Not yet. I anticipate that could be soon, but it will be coming from the State Department. I'm not sure what --

Q Today?

MS. PERINO: I don't have a specific time. They haven't -- they haven't noticed when they would put those out yet.

Q -- talk about the President's agenda at the -- in Annapolis?

MS. PERINO: Well, I think what I would like to do is wait for the State Department to issue the invitations and to lay out the schedule for the events surrounding the conference, as well as the conference itself, and then we'll provide a little bit more. As soon as we have the schedule, we can do that.

Q Does the President have any expectations of success for the conference?

MS. PERINO: What the President has wanted is what he said had wanted back in July of 2002. He's the first President to call for a two-state solution. He'd like to see these two parties come together to talk about the substantial and core issues surrounding the peace process so that we can begin negotiations towards that end. That's what we've been working towards as we get toward -- get closer to an Annapolis conference.

I'm hopeful that the State Department will announce that soon, and then as soon as we do, we can provide you more about the President's participation.

Q Can you tell me the process again? Before the 100,000 federal notices go out, what needs to happen and what's the time frame?

MS. PERINO: No, it's that before you furlough anyone there is -- you have to provide notice. Is it 60 or 90 days? There's labor laws. It's like 60 to 90 days that you provide the notice. And so furloughs would begin 60 to 90 days from when the notices go out.

Q Right. But they won't -- the notices won't go out if Congress --

MS. PERINO: Correct. If Congress provides the full funding, then Department of Defense will not have to take the step of sending furlough notices to civilian employees.

Q Wait a minute. I thought you said that the notices would go out before they come back from this recess.

MS. PERINO: No, what I said is, I don't know exactly when they have to go out, but they --

MR. JOHNDROE: Mid-December.

MS. PERINO: Mid-December, is what they said. But if you think of it, they only have six legislative working days when they get back on December 4th. It's getting dangerously close to the time that they would have to do that.

Q Do they go out to all services? I mean, I realize these are civilians, but --

MS. PERINO: You'll have to ask -- Geoff Morrell at the Defense Department is up to speed on the details at the Defense Department.

Q Dana, you did say Marine civilians and --


Q Dana, how important is it for Syria to attend this Annapolis conference? And can you talk a little bit about the new round of U.S.-Iran talks in Iran?

MS. PERINO: Well, I'm going to let State Department talk about invitations and agendas today -- hopefully today. If not, then we'll get it to you as soon as possible and provide you presidential participation from there.

You asked me about the new U.S. --

Q Iran talks.

MS. PERINO: -- Iran talks?

Q Yes.

MS. PERINO: I don't know, is there something new beyond -- I don't know of anything new. I mean, we've been having continuing conversations with --

Q Iran is saying that they've accepted some kind of invitation to the talk to the United States.

MS. PERINO: It's the first I've heard of that.


Q Yes, on the climate change briefing last week, administration officials said that there's still a verdict out on what constitutes dangerous levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Yet NASA and its own peer-reviewed publications have concluded that even a one degree Centigrade increase constitutes dangerous climate change. So does the administration disagree with NASA?

MS. PERINO: I think there's a lot of science out there. I don't know about the specific report you're referring to. I do know that the people who provided that briefing last week are the technical experts and the substantive experts, the policy experts, and so I would defer to them and what they said.

Q But are you indicating, then, that NASA does not have the scientific expertise?

MS. PERINO: Absolutely not, Paula. And as I have said before, some of the NASA scientists, including James Hansen, have been the basis of some of the good programs that we have, including the Methane to Markets initiative, that we are helping other countries in order to use our technology to take excess methane from mining, such as the accident that happened last week in Ukraine, in order to turn that into -- to capture that energy source so that the greenhouse gases don't go up into the air, and then use it for power. We are using our technology to help other countries, one, improve their economy; and two, reduce greenhouse gases. And that is a direct result of some of the science done at NASA.

So we take into account -- yes.

Q In all due respect, I'm not talking about Methane to Market. I'm talking about other indications of rapidly rising temperatures in the Arctic Circle, as well as you know, ice sheets are already melting at a faster pace than originally --

MS. PERINO: Well, in all due respect to the people who provided you the briefing last week, who are the experts in the matter, I'm going to defer to them. But what I can tell you is that this President invited the major economies of the world to come together to talk about how do we move forward in a post-2012 framework in order to work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And that's what we are focused on from a policy level looking forward. We recognize the dangers of climate change; we recognize that we need to reduce greenhouse emissions; we recognize we have a role in that. And that's what we're working on.

Go ahead, John.

Q Thank you, Dana. Congress appears to be on the verge of passing FISA legislation that statements from the administration indicate are unacceptable. This is primarily the package sculpted by Senator Leahy. Is anyone in the administration in touch with Leahy?

MS. PERINO: Well, of course we're in communication with Senator Leahy and his staff. But I think it's a little premature to say that they're on the verge of passing that bill, because there's a House bill, there's the Senate Judiciary bill, and then there's the Senate Select Intelligence Committee's bill. The Intelligence Committee's bill is one that we believe we can largely support because it has a lot of the elements in it that we think are necessary to think the intelligence gap firmly closed, and to be able to provide that retroactive liability protection for the companies that were alleged to have helped their country in the aftermath of 9/11.

The bills that the House -- the bill that the House put forward and the Senate Judiciary bills are both ones that the President could not sign. But I think it's premature to say that they're on the verge of passing any of those, because I don't believe any of them have had full action yet.

Q So it has to have liability protection for the President to sign it?

MS. PERINO: The President has said that that is a key component of that bill.


Q The Annapolis conference, your inability to speak to the details of that, does that mean that Olmert and Abbas have not finalized the plans yet, or they've not been communicated to you?

MS. PERINO: I'm just going to say there's been nothing announced yet from the State Department, which is the best I can do for you right now. Obviously Olmert and Abbas have been in communication, and in fact, you saw a picture of the two of them having that conversation yesterday.

We've been working closely with the different parties. There's been a lot of walk-up to this. And let's just let the State Department finalize the details and make that announcement, and then we can provide more information about the President's participation.

Q -- coverage, do you know anything about that?

MS. PERINO: Not yet. As soon as the State Department announces the agenda, we can do that.

Q Dana, Pakistan's Interior Ministry says it's released 3,000 detainees and about 2,000 more will be released soon --

MS. PERINO: I hadn't heard that.

Q -- and that Musharraf has given no indication still of when the state of emergency will be lifted. Is that release of detainees enough to meet the President's demands, or is there more?

MS. PERINO: You are informing me of the release. So to the extent that I haven't been able to check that out, obviously that would be a positive development. Let us get a little bit more detail on it. And the President does still want the emergency order to be lifted, but there have been some -- as the situation evolves, we are getting closer, hopefully, to when that emergency order would be lifted, the elections would be held, and that President Musharraf would take off the uniform and be a civilian President, rather than trying to be both.

Q What recess appointments, if any, are going to be prevented by the Senate staying over the holidays?

MS. PERINO: That's quite a way to ask it. We don't ever comment on personnel announcements or recess appointments.

Q Back to the Mideast conference, big picture question. Isn't this a very big gamble, holding this conference?

MS. PERINO: I would say it's an important initiative. The President is not a gambler. The President wants these parties to come together for the sake of peace and stability and democracy and freedom in the Middle East. He understands there's a root cause here, in that region, and he has dedicated a significant amount of time and resources and effort to bringing them together, and I think that it's well worth it.

Q Is he familiar with the Scowcroft letter, I guess signed by a bunch of other folks, as well, saying basically that if there is either nothing accomplished at this session, or very little accomplished, it risks devastating consequences in the region?

MS. PERINO: We are aware that there has been a lot of posturing and a lot of communication in the walk up to this conference, and there are people that have a lot of experience, like the gentleman you mentioned, who were here before, they've seen the difficulties of trying to establish peace in the Middle East. We recognize that at the Annapolis conference we are not going to have instant results. What you are going to have, however, we hope, is a discussion of the core issues, the substantive issues that can get the Palestinians and the Israelis to a place where they can have negotiations to get to the two-state solution that they say that they both want to get to.

There's a lot of difficult issues that come with that. There's a lot of history, and there's a lot of tension. But I think that the motivations on all sides have been genuine, and we are hopeful that we have a good conference. And I look forward to giving you more information about the President's participation as soon as I can.

Q Does the President still believe that a two-state solution is possible before leaving office in January?

MS. PERINO: No, I'm not going to put a time frame on it. We're going to focus right now on Annapolis and making sure that we can get to -- get through that conference in a way that results in negotiations being able to be started and to be fruitful

Q In the press, some reports are calling it just a meeting; others are calling it a conference. It's a simple question, but it speaks to the -- (inaudible) -- of this conference or meeting -- is it a meeting, or is it a conference?

MS. PERINO: Are we calling it a meeting?

MR. JOHNDROE: -- (inaudible) --

MS. PERINO: Gordon is very clever. (Laughter.) Let's let the State Department announce it and then we'll figure out what the term is.

Q To follow on that real quickly, the President's actual involvement -- will he be there to listen, or will he be there to lead the conversation? How much of the meeting --

MS. PERINO: Those are the details I hope to be able to provide you once the State Department has made an announcement about invitations and agenda.

Q How important is it that he attend at all?

MS. PERINO: Well, I think the President feels it's important. He's put a lot of personal effort behind this. And so he wants to make sure he's a part of it, as well as supporting his Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense who have worked very hard to make this happen. Secretary Rice has been in the region eight times this year alone, and I think you can't fault us for working to try to bring the parties together.

Q Are you going to brief on that before --


Q -- Monday?

MS. PERINO: I don't anticipate a briefing, but we'll see what we can do.

Q So providing the details won't happen until Monday.

MS. PERINO: Not necessarily. We can maybe do a conference call or something. We'll figure it out when it happens.

Q How is he going to celebrate Thanksgiving?

MS. PERINO: Hold on, let me go on to Dave, because I said I would. Go ahead, Dave.

Q Dana, in view of the seriousness of the funding position between the White House and the President, why doesn't the President just ask -- demand that Congress come back into session right after Thanksgiving and work on it?

MS. PERINO: Well, they're already coming back after Thanksgiving. They're going to be in session on December 4th, and I think that they recognize how much work they have to get done as well. I think it's premature to be asking anyone to be taking any other measure.

You asked me, Helen, about Thanksgiving?

Q Yes, family? Is the whole family gathering?

MS. PERINO: Yes, let me see if I can provide you any more detail, but he will be at Camp David, as he has been in years past. He expects to have some family there and some friends. And it's usually just a pretty relaxing time. I might get a little bit more information today when I'm up there. I'm going to go up for the interviews.

Q What does the President think of Karl Rove being a columnist?

MS. PERINO: Well, I think that he misses his friend Karl and wishes him the best.

Q A journalist, I mean.

MS. PERINO: What do you think of that? That would be a more interesting --

Q I think it's terrible. (Laughter.)

Q Don't hold back. (Laughter.)

MS. PERINO: Right. It would be shocking to know a journalist that had an opinion that they would express.

Q Any secret trips?

MS. PERINO: No, not that I'm aware of.

END 9:44 A.M. EST