For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 29, 2008
Press Gaggle by Gordon Johndroe
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
9:37 A.M. EST
MR. JOHNDROE: Okay, today's schedule: The President taped his radio address this morning. In it the President will announce the release of the 2008 National Drug Control Strategy. This report lays out the methods the administration is using to combat drug abuse in America and highlights the hopeful progress that we are making in the fight against addiction. ONDCP will have more on that later.
At 8:00 a.m. the President had his normal briefings. At 11:05 a.m. this morning the President will meet with the Secretary General of NATO in the Oval Office. That will be pool at bottom. The President looks forward to meeting with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. Following the meeting in the Oval will be lunch in the Old Family Dining Room.
Today's meeting is an opportunity to talk about the upcoming NATO summit in Bucharest in early April, where NATO's transformation through improved military capabilities and continued NATO enlargement will be the key focus. The President and Secretary General will also discuss other critical issues on NATO's agenda, including Afghanistan and the long-term commitment to that mission, as well as missile defense.
At 1:00 p.m. the President departs the White House via Marine One for Texas, and at 4:30 p.m. Central time the President and Mrs. Bush will welcome Prime Minister of Denmark Rasmussen and Mrs. Rasmussen to the Ranch. They will have dinner tonight and meetings tomorrow. This visit underscores the good personal relationship the two leaders have, as well as the strong relationship the United States has with Denmark. The discussion will be wide-ranging, will include Afghanistan, where Denmark is playing a leading role in both security and reconstruction assistance, and in Iraq, where Denmark has contributed to stability efforts since 2003.
They'll also talk about the NATO summit coming up in Bucharest. I expect the President will brief the Prime Minister on Africa and hear about Denmark's own contributions there on that continent. They'll also discuss developments in the Middle East, as well as energy and the environment.
And I will do the week ahead at the end. With that, I'm happy to --
Q Turkey says that it has completed its military mission in northern Iraq and brought its troops back home. U.S. reaction? Do you have the impression they'll do it quickly?
MR. JOHNDROE: We've seen those reports that are just coming out. I think there's one thing that remains clear, and that is the United States, Turkey and Iraq all will continue to view the PKK as a terrorist organization that needs to be dealt with. So we will continue to have cooperation with them on dealing with that organization. I don't think there's anything else to add at this point.
Q Well, I mean, do you think that they completed it in the timely manner that Secretary Gates had requested?
MR. JOHNDROE: Yes, I think you heard the President address this yesterday. It was a targeted and relatively short operation, but I would certainly expect that in the future, that unless the PKK gives up terrorism, that we're going to have to continue to work with the Turks and the Iraqis to go after them.
Q So you expect there will be more --
MR. JOHNDROE: No, I would just say that we'll continue to have to deal with the PKK in the future.
MR. JOHNDROE: Yes, Ann.
Q When the President yesterday that he hadn't heard forecasts of $4 gas, was he serious?
MR. JOHNDROE: One, the President realizes that the high price of gasoline is a hardship for many Americans, but the President's point was that neither his advisors nor Energy Department analysts are at this point forecasting $4 a gallon gasoline.
Q It's here. It's already in California.
MR. JOHNDROE: I think that the national average, as of earlier this week, was $3.15, according to the Energy Department and other surveys. And so, no doubt, the price of gas is high. It causes hardship for many Americans. There is a -- it is something the President is concerned about. He talked about that yesterday. It's important for people to remember there are no short-term solutions to this.
There's a -- several things that need to be done. One, Congress certainly shouldn't raise taxes that would increase the cost of gasoline. That would certainly not be helpful. And we need to continue to encourage environmentally friendly domestic production, reduce our dependence on foreign sources of oil and look to increase technological advances for efficiency and alternative sources of energy.
Q I'm still a little unclear. When he said that, though, was he being facetious or had he -- what did he mean that he hadn't heard that?
MR. JOHNDROE: I think, one, the government analysts are not forecasting it. But, two, I think it's something that we've heard for quite some time now in the news media, to be frank, for -- I can remember, last year, waking up to some of the morning programs forecasting $4 a gallon --
Q Well, some parts in California I think --
MR. JOHNDROE: -- gasoline. And so it's something we've heard for a while. As of now, that is not the national average. It may or may not happen, but I think the President's point was: one, he realizes the problem and is concerned about it; but two, that's not what the official analysts are predicting.
Q Ahmadinejad says that Iran is going to continue pursuing its nuclear program. Does that help or hurt this vote that's expected to happen on more sanctions at the U.N.?
MR. JOHNDROE: Well, I think it's unfortunate that he continues to make these comments. He just further isolates Iran and the Iranian people, and that's not our goal at all. But it looks like the U.N. Security Council is probably headed towards a vote sometime relatively soon on a third set of sanctions against Iran.
And so Iran knows what it needs to do. Iran is the outlier here, as the international community unites. You have the permanent five members plus Germany who have been working on this, and are talking to other Security Council members. And so Iran knows what it needs to do, and then could reap the benefits of that.
Q Gordon, are you confident that vote is going to go your way? In other words, that the U.N. Security Council is going to embrace a third round of sanctions?
MR. JOHNDROE: Well, let's let the vote take place. But I think things are -- we've been talking a lot again with the other members of the P5, as well as Germany, and other members of the Security Council. And so I think that -- I think everyone is in agreement that Iran should not be enriching uranium, and so let's just -- let's let the vote take place in New York.
Q A quick one on Lebanon, too. Prime Minister Siniora comes out today and says he has summoned the U.S. charg d'affaires to request clarifications about the USS Cole being sent to the region; says he had nothing to do with it. Was there really no coordination between the United States and Lebanon about this show of force in the region?
MR. JOHNDROE: No, I would say we have regular consultations with Prime Minister Siniora and his government, as well as our allies, both in the immediate region, as well as in Europe on the situation in Lebanon.
And so there's constant communication at various levels. But let's be clear: The purpose of the U.S. Navy ships in the eastern Mediterranean is a show of support for regional stability. So I think we all want to -- I know we share with Prime Minister Siniora a desire for the situation in Lebanon to be resolved, and resolved by the Lebanese people.
Q A follow-up on that. The --
Q Is that a confirmation that he wasn't consulted, Gordon?
MR. JOHNDROE: I'll look into the specifics, but we consult regularly with the Lebanese government.
Q Hezbollah is criticizing the move, saying they're facing an "American threat against Lebanon. It's clear this threat and intimidation will not affect us." Any thoughts on their reaction?
MR. JOHNDROE: On Hezbollah's concerns? I would express some of our own concerns with Hezbollah's actions. So I'll just leave it at that.
Q Two quick questions. One, just briefly on Russia. Has the President spoken to Putin at all this week, or does he plan to before the election, or maybe after it? Anything in this week? Secondly, on NATO, does the President plan to raise the issue of increased need for international troops in Afghanistan? Can you give any specifics on what you guys are looking for? And do you think Congress needs to do more, in terms of oversight, specifically Obama's subcommittee regarding NATO, to work on the NATO issue in Afghanistan? I know that's a lot, sorry.
MR. JOHNDROE: All right. Well, one, on Russia, I'm not aware of any phone calls with President Putin this week, and we'll let you know about any future calls coming up with regards to the election or with President Putin.
And second of all, NATO, there will -- certainly the President will discuss with the Secretary General of NATO the mission in Afghanistan. He will discuss it with the Danish Prime Minister. He discussed it a couple of days ago with the Czech Prime Minister. It is something the President is very much focused on. We appreciate the work of these allies and the troops that they have deployed in Afghanistan and the work that they've done there. And we're talking with other members of NATO about additional troop deployments.
Q Can you give any specifics on what you're looking for, in terms of commitments, though?
MR. JOHNDROE: I think that our commanders on the ground -- I think General McNeil has talked a little bit about some of the needs there. Obviously the President sent in about 3,200 additional Marines. They're, I believe, deploying now. So there's a need for more trainers to help set up the Afghan army and Afghan police and additional PRTs, additional units for various functions. And so we're in discussions with our allies on that.
Q I'm not hearing you mention combat troops. That's part of the need, right?
MR. JOHNDROE: Part of the Marine outfit will be involved in that, as well, but the Defense Department can tell you a little more about that.
MR. JOHNDROE: Yes, Peter.
Q Back on oil. Have there been any follow-up discussions with the Saudis since the President's visit to the Middle East about opening up supplies more? As you know, OPEC is meeting next week.
MR. JOHNDROE: I would say we have pretty regular contact. I think that Secretary Bodman was out in the region right after President Bush was in the region. We have regular contact with all the -- with many of these countries. So we'll see. There certainly is a --
(Fire alarm goes off.)
Q What is that?
MR. JOHNDROE: I know, right. Well, I guess we're over. I guess we're done now.
Q Fire drill?
MR. JOHNDROE: Yes, right, exactly. There's a button up here on the new podium. See if one of these guys has something to say.
Q It's an easy way to get out of a briefing.
MR. JOHNDROE: Yes, right.
Q Week ahead? (Laughter.)
MR. JOHNDROE: Yes, no kidding. Do you want me to just release it?
MR. JOHNDROE: All right, thank you all.
END 9:48 A.M. EST