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

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 2, 2007

Press Gaggle by Dana Perino
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Fort Jackson, South Carolina

10:05 A.M. EDT

MS. PERINO: I'll give you the schedule, and then I have a couple of announcements. The President taped his radio address this morning. The topic is the President will be urging the Senate to confirm Judge Mukasey as Attorney General. He received his normal briefings. One update: Upon arrival this morning, the President will make a statement to the pool -- just downstairs, at the airport. He'll have Senator Graham with him. At 11:50 a.m. the President attends a Graham Victory reception. And at 1:05 p.m., he will visit the Fit To Win course at Fort Jackson.

Let me give you a couple of things on Fort Jackson. It is the largest and most active initial entry training center in the U.S. Army. It trains 50 percent of all soldiers and 70 percent of the men and women entering the Army each year, for a total of 50,000 soldiers per year.

And the other mission of the institute include U.S. Army Soldier Support Institute, the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School, and the Defense Academy for Threat Ability Assessment.

So after visiting the Fit To Win course the President will greet military personnel -- that will be pool coverage. And at 1:45 p.m., he will make remarks at the Basic Combat Training Graduation ceremony, 1,300 graduates today.

Also, upon arrival at Fort Jackson, the President will greet students -- 30 students of the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School. Their mission is to educate and train Army chaplains and chaplain assistants. They provide regular and religious support to American soldiers and their families. The school is designed to provide consistent and coherent spiritual, religious and moral leadership training and instruction in war and peace.

The President will arrive Camp David via Marine One at 7:10 p.m. So he'll go straight there from Andrews.

Q What's the topic of the statement at the airport?

MS. PERINO: It will be about Senator Graham and he'll probably mention Mukasey, as well. Not the he Fort Jackson speech, but he'll be talking -- he will talk about Judge Mukasey and how he needs to be confirmed.

Q What about Senator Graham -- is there something --

MS. PERINO: Just that -- the event that he is going to do with Senator Graham. Senator Graham is on the Judiciary Committee, so he'll talk about his support for Judge Mukasey and his statement yesterday.

One point on the economy. We had an excellent report today -- 166,000 jobs created in October. That continues the record of now 50 straight months of job creation. The continued low unemployment rate is 4.7 percent. And it's great news that more and more Americans are continuing to work, their take-home pay is increasing. And we're going to continue to push for these trade agreements so that we have open markets for trade, and to keep spending down, and that we avoid tax increases as we go through the appropriations.

I have a little bit of a preview for you on the speech. Many of the soldiers at Fort Jackson have served in Iraq or they will be, including many of these graduates today. They will help carry out a renewed strategy that over the past few months has taken the initiative from the enemy and driven them from their strongholds. The fight for Iraq is critical to the security of the American people, and the soldiers like the ones the President will greet today and speak at their commencement -- it is soldiers like them that -- their courage and their valor -- that they are the reason that we are able to have some of the signs of success that we're starting to have.

The President will provide an update as to where we are in the state -- the conflict in Iraq. He said he would do that periodically, after the September speech, try to give regular updates, and so that's what he'll do today.

Q Any numbers on how many of the Fort Jackson soldiers have been in Iraq?

MS. PERINO: I don't believe I do.

Q They have just completed basic training --

MS. PERINO: Yes, basic combat training. There are 6,700 people in the audience, and I don't know if they are friends and family, or other soldiers.

Q How hopeful is he that Judge Mukasey will be confirmed?

MS. PERINO: He's confident that he will be confirmed if he is able to get a vote on the Senate floor. It is a good sign that there is going to be a vote on Tuesday. There's no reason that Judge Mukasey should not be confirmed. He is eminently qualified, and he embodies what most Republicans and Democrats who were consulted prior to the nomination said they wanted in an Attorney General.

Q What about the committee, though?

MS. PERINO: Well, we don't do a lot of vote counting and many of the members of Congress -- members of the committee have made statements as to how they plan to vote, and you may see more of that over the weekend as we lead into Tuesday.

Q Obviously you all don't want to talk about the waterboarding issue, specifically, but what can you all do to address concerns that this may be emblematic of Mukasey not being as independent an Attorney General --

MS. PERINO: Well, I think that anyone who actually took the time to read his letter, listen to two days of testimony -- he answered 495 questions for the record -- can see that he is an independent thinker, judicious, competent, and takes the time to really understand the issues, understand the facts of the matter before making a judgment. That's exactly what all of us should want in an Attorney General, and it's what the senators themselves said that they wanted.

It is unreasonable to expect someone who doesn't have all the facts in front of them to render a legal opinion. If confirmed, he said that he would take a look at all of these issues, and that once he is, remember then he can be called up by the members of Congress who he answers to, as well, he will be able to answer their questions. But I would also submit to you that members of Congress have been briefed on this program, and they have been briefed on the techniques. So they know that this program -- what the program entails. But they also know from General Hayden that it has saved lives. It's very limited; according to General Hayden, there have been less than 100 terrorists who have been caught -- been in the program, and less than a third of those who have required enhanced techniques.

It is a program that is safe, effective -- it is tough, but it operates within the law. And the President wants people to know we operate within the law.

Q Is the President open to having an Attorney General who opposes him on some of these things? If he says, look -- if he becomes Attorney General -- if he says, now that I have looked at this issue, if we are in fact using certain techniques -- is the President open to having an Attorney General who says, I don't agree, we shouldn't be doing this?

MS. PERINO: What the President wants is what the members of Congress said that they wanted, which is an independent thinker, somebody who could give their best judgment, someone who has the judicial acumen that Judge Mukasey has to be able to provide good advice. The other reason the President wants Judge Mukasey confirmed is because and Attorney General is a key member of the national security team of any President when the nation is at war. And we have many vacancies open at the Justice Department, and we are encouraging the Senate to move forward with Judge Mukasey's nomination so that he can be confirmed as Attorney General. And then they should move expeditiously to get the other members that are -- the other candidates that are waiting for their confirmation, including I think the deputy and several others.

That's it? All right, good.

END 10:14 A.M. EDT

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