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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 28, 2007

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

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12:22 P.M. EST

MS. PERINO: Good afternoon. I have two statements. Today the President will release a statement regarding the Energy Information Administration's Final Report, which includes U.S. greenhouse gas emissions for 2006.

The President is pleased that the report shows that emissions declined 1.5 percent from the 2005 level, while our economy grew at 2.9 percent. That means greenhouse gas intensity decreased by 4.2 percent, and that is the largest improvement since 1985. This puts the United States well ahead of the President's 2002 goal to reduce greenhouse gas intensity by 18 percent by 2012. And the administration looks forward to making more progress on this important issue at the upcoming U.N. meeting on climate change, which will take place in Bali, Indonesia in December.

In addition to that, today President Bush signed an executive order creating a presidential emergency board to investigate and make recommendations for a settlement of the disputes between Amtrak and unions representing Amtrak employees. This PEB, it's called, will be effective on December 1, 2007. The National Mediation Board has been working to resolve these disputes, but realized that the parties would not be able to reach a settlement, and so they released them. This began the 30-day cooling-off period, which ends on December 1st.

The National Mediation Board found that the disputes threatened to interrupt interstate commerce to a degree that would deprive a section of the country of essential transportation service. The President agreed with the finding, and that is why he decided to form the emergency board.

Questions.

Q Can you explain what today's Rose Garden ceremony is all about? Yesterday there was this launch of the peace negotiations, the handshakes. What happens today?

MS. PERINO: One of the things that was wonderful about yesterday was that we had a moment when the Israelis and the Palestinians were able to come together, agree on a statement to launch these negotiations. But one of the things the President said was really important is yesterday was important, but what happened the next day was even more important, which is the start of the negotiations. And the Israelis and the Palestinians are going to lay out times when they are going to be able to meet. Their first meeting will be December 12th.

Today's meetings are for the President to meet with them first individually, as he's just finished his meeting with President Abbas, and he will have his meeting with Prime Minister Olmert in about 30 minutes. And then he will meet with them together and encourage them, tell them -- one of the things that he told President Abbas, which I believe he'll tell Prime Minister Olmert, as well, is that when you're in one of these negotiations, it's really important to keep your eye on the big picture, that there are many issues that are going to have to be discussed -- and both leaders touched on some of them yesterday in their statements. These are difficult, emotional issues. It's going to be time-consuming as they work through them and there could be sticking points.

And what the President encouraged them to do was to work with their negotiators; that there would be days when it looks like things were really tough, but that if you keep your eye on the big picture, that you can help make sure that you'll have a successful negotiation.

Q That was yesterday, or today?

MS. PERINO: That was today, in today's meeting. This is after they decided to have the negotiations. That's why they were able to move forward today.

Q Okay. And then he's going to say the same thing to Olmert?

MS. PERINO: I would believe so. Obviously, they also have many issues to discuss outside of the Palestinian and Israeli dispute. So I'll see if I can get you more on that after the meeting, but given the time frame -- I had to come out here and brief, so I'm not going to be in that meeting beforehand. But then, in the Rose Garden, the President will provide them this hopeful beginning so that they can move forward.

Q Is there anything the President has learned in his meeting with President Abbas, or in the post-public part of yesterday that he will share with us in the Rose Garden, just any new perspective on this? And does he see himself as sort of the negotiating advisor?

MS. PERINO: I believe that the President's remarks will be relatively short. I don't expect him to take questions. This is a moment when he can work with these two men -- appear with these two men as they launch these negotiations, which is significant. One of the things President Bush asked President Abbas was what was the reaction in the region. And President Abbas said that he believed, and the President agrees, that people are ready for peace and that it was received favorably, but they know that they have a lot of work to do. There's apprehension, there's caution.

But I don't expect the President to spend a lot of time dwelling on that in the Rose Garden. This is more for an opportunity for them to get together and say, we're committed to this effort. The President reiterated his personal commitment to this effort. He reminded them that when Secretary Rice is there in the region, he speaks -- she speaks for him. There's no daylight between President Bush and Secretary Rice on this matter, or any other matter. And I think there was a feeling of optimism in the room, but also a realization that there's a lot of hard work ahead of them.

Q Do you know if they discussed the role of Hamas at all? Did Abbas express any concerns either way that they --

MS. PERINO: I'm not -- I won't go into detail, but, yes, it did come up in the meeting, and this is something that, obviously, President Abbas is thinking about. And he has been working ever since Hamas won the elections in 2006 to figure out a way -- first of all, try to work with them, and then decided it was not going to be possible. And then there was the coup of Gaza. And so there's a lot of issues that the Palestinians have to work out in that regard.

What the President said is that if President Abbas can continue to provide the Palestinians with this hopeful vision, a future, a horizon that they could see, something that's tangible, something that they could reach towards, that that type of leadership will be rewarded.

Q Does President Bush have his eye on, as you call it, the big picture if he refuses to deal with Hamas at this point?

MS. PERINO: Absolutely. The President is not going to do the negotiating for the Israelis and the Palestinians. He has said that Americans can be helpful, he will be there, he's only a phone call away. But they're going to have to do the hard work of talking to one another. And the two leaders pledged to do that yesterday. The issue of Hamas is one that President Olmert -- President Abbas -- excuse me -- is going to have to deal with.

Q And what did President Abbas tell President Bush about the demonstrations in Gaza yesterday?

MS. PERINO: That did not come up.

Q Did Iran come up, or will Iran come up today in any of the meetings?

MS. PERINO: It did not come up this morning. Obviously, Iran is one of the issues that, in the broader picture of the Middle East, is an issue. But this is a negotiation between the Palestinians and the Israelis about forming a democratic, viable Palestinian state, and it did not come up in this morning's meeting.

Q The fact that you have all these Arab leaders in town and it does make Iran look more isolated --

MS. PERINO: I think Iran has decided to isolate itself and -- by their words and their actions. They continue to, unfortunately for their own people, make themselves more isolated from the rest of the world.

And yesterday was a significant moment, not just because President Olmert and Prime Minister Abbas were able to forge an agreement about launching these negotiations, but because they were roundly supported by over 40 countries that had joined them, including Arab nations. And so that was important.

Q And Iraq did not come. Why, and why shouldn't --

MS. PERINO: Well, they certainly were invited. I think that, obviously, they have a lot of issues on their plate, but they decided not to come. It was unfortunate, but obviously they would have been invited.

Q Do you know the reason why they wouldn't?

MS. PERINO: I don't.

Q -- they have a lot of issues on their plate, but you would think that Mideast peace --

MS. PERINO: Beyond them being very busy, I don't know. I'd have to refer you to them.

Helen.

Q Thirty-five Iraqis, including women and children, were killed by Americans yesterday. Do you still consider that we're having a big success there?

MS. PERINO: I don't think that that number is correct, as far as I know. Obviously, we regret the loss of any innocent life. I know that our military takes great pains to make sure that they are protected in this war zone. I'd refer you to the Multinational Force In Iraq for more.

Q -- newspapers today --

MS. PERINO: I don't think that that number is what they said. That wasn't the number in the newspaper.

Go ahead.

Q To follow up on that, the President is going over to the Defense Department tomorrow. What's the purpose of that?

MS. PERINO: The purpose of that meeting is for the -- remember the President last went over to the Pentagon to the room that's called "the tank" -- this is where he meets with the Joint Chiefs. It's part of one of his regular visits. He goes there to hear from the Chiefs -- the uniform Chiefs of the military about a variety of issues, including long-term measures, the health of the force, budget issues. Of course, I'm sure Iraq and Afghanistan will come up -- but the overall strategic environment of our military and how it is operating worldwide is what the President expects to hear from them tomorrow.

Q And then we're going to have a statement afterwards?

MS. PERINO: Yes. That's the plan. We usually do a statement afterwards.

Paula.

Q The figures you gave on greenhouse gas emissions, that was measured in intensity, wasn't it?

MS. PERINO: Yes.

Q -- reduction unit, in the context of economic growth.

MS. PERINO: I believe so.

Q Pardon?

MS. PERINO: I'm not sure -- the 1.5 percent is actual levels.

Q But in the context of the economic growth, what about a reduction -- the reduction figure that you gave for --

MS. PERINO: The reduction figure is 1.5 percent, but that means that greenhouse gas intensity decreased by 4.2 percent. Those are the two numbers.

Q So what would it be if it were measured the way major industrialized countries measure it, and they don't do it in intensity?

MS. PERINO: I just told you, the 1.5 percent is from actual levels.

Q I thought you told me that was an increase in the context of --

MS. PERINO: No, no -- I'm sorry -- well, I'm sorry if there was a misunderstanding. It's 1.5 percent, which is from actual levels, but that is added into the intensity. The intensity figure comes from that. The Energy Information Administration are the statisticians. They can provide you a lot more information than I can.

Q It's measured in intensity, though, isn't that correct?

MS. PERINO: The 4.2 percent number is intensity; that's the decrease.

Victoria.

Q You said that the Israelis and the Palestinians are going to do the hard work of negotiating. If they specifically say, "President Bush, we need you to get involved with us" in order to break a logjam, or "we need you to be there at the table with us," will he, at that point, get involved?

MS. PERINO: I think that he's shown a willingness to do so. And Secretary Rice has been to the region nine times* between January and now, in order to help them get to this point. So we will be there to be able to help them. We are not going to make decisions for them, they're going to have to make them together. But I think that up to now, with these two leaders, and at this point in time, we've been able to show that we can help them come to an agreement. And now they'll have to launch their negotiations. And both of the leaders have said they'd like to finish this agreement before the end of the President's term, which we all know is about a little more than a year from now.

Q This morning, former Ambassador John Bolton said that he thinks that President Bush is actually skeptical about the possibility of the peace talks succeeding. What's your response to that?

MS. PERINO: I would tell you that the President today said that he feels optimistic about it. But he is also one that realizes how much hard work that this is going to take, and that these two leaders are going to have to continue to work very hard, and they're going to have to confront very difficult and emotional issues. And that is why he said that he is personally committed, and that he has committed the resources of the federal government -- the United States federal government -- and that Secretary Rice will be there in order to help them.

So I think that he actually has optimism about this working, because as he said yesterday, what the President said yesterday is that he believes this is the right time for several reasons, which he laid out yesterday.

Q Did Mahmoud Abbas tell the President about his mention of Israel as a Jewish state and what it means in regard to the right of return --

MS. PERINO: As I mentioned yesterday -- no, there was not discussion about that particular issue today. The right of return issue is a part of the road map and it's going to be one of the issues that the Israelis and the Palestinians have to talk about during these negotiations.

Go ahead, Les.

Q Dana, thank you very much. Two questions. London's Sunday Times and other media have reported that the Archbishop of Canterbury has denounced the United States for what he alleged is our "wielding power in a way that is worse than Britain in its imperial heyday." And my question: What was the President's reaction to this denunciation by the head of the world's Anglican --

MS. PERINO: The President has been busy, very busy, working to bring these two leaders together to talk about peace in the Middle East. And so I think that was a good use of his time. And I won't comment on the --

Q No comment? All right. On CNN, Governor Huckabee said that U.S. consumers are financing both sides in the war on terror, because every time we put our credit card in the gas pump we're paying so that the Saudis get obscenely rich, with the money funding madrassas that train the terrorists. And my question: Does the President believe that Governor Huckabee is wrong to say this and that we're enslaved to Saudi oil?

MS. PERINO: That's a clever way to try to get me to comment on what is now a matter that is a part of a presidential candidacy. The President is looking forward to working with Congress when they get back. We hope that we can get an agreement on an energy bill that will help reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy.

Q Dana, there's a report that the Chinese Foreign Minister told the President today the reason that a U.S. aircraft carrier was turned away from Hong Kong was due to a misunderstanding. First of all, can you confirm that? And secondly, is that an acceptable explanation?

MS. PERINO: The President met today with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang, this morning in the Oval Office. They discussed North Korea, Iran, and many other bilateral issues that we have with China. The President raised the issue about the recent aborted port call by the USS Kitty Hawk. Foreign Minister Yang announced that -- assured the President that it was a misunderstanding. I was not able to be there, but that's the readout that I have for you, that that's the explanation that was given to the President.

Q Is that an acceptable explanation to the President?

MS. PERINO: I don't have any more from -- I don't have a presidential reaction. I just know about the meeting.

Q What kind of misunderstanding? How do you have a misunderstanding that you turn an aircraft carrier around? Do you know what the explanation was?

MS. PERINO: I don't know what his explanation was. All I know was he told the President that it was a misunderstanding. I don't have details, but I'll see if I can get anything more for you.

Q Thank you.

* Secretary Rice has been to the region eight times.

END 12:35 P.M. EST