For Immediate Release
May 8, 2008
Press Gaggle by Gordon Johndroe
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Waco, Texas
9:35 A.M. EDT
MR. JOHNDROE: Good morning. We're on our way to Texas, as you know. The President had his normal briefings and recorded his weekly radio address this morning. I'll come back to that.
First I wanted to make some brief comments about reports out of Zimbabwe of increasing violence. This violence and intimidation needs to stop. Mugabe and his supporters need to refrain from this sort of activity against those who are supporting the opposition.
The people of Zimbabwe some time ago voted for change. The will of the people of Zimbabwe should be respected. We note that regional leaders such as the President of Zambia have been very much engaged to try and resolve this electoral crisis there. I understand they'll be meeting soon with the South Africans. We would urge all the leaders in the region to play a constructive role so that the people of Zimbabwe can get their country back on not only the path to democracy but back on a sustainable economic future so they can support themselves.
Now, on the radio address, the radio address the President recorded this morning is really a Mother's Day tribute. He will talk about also -- briefly about the wedding of one of his daughters, Jenna. The President is excited to be going down to Texas today. He is looking forward to the weekend, as is the entire Bush family. It's really a special moment for them, and he, I think, is also going to make sure he gets a good night's sleep tonight so he can stay up late the rest of the weekend and enjoy all the activities that are planned.
With that, I'm happy to take your questions.
Q He was walking with his arm out, just for fun, you know. Is that his only role?
MR. JOHNDROE: Sorry, what?
Q He was walking out with his arm, showing us how he was going to -- is that his only role?
MR. JOHNDROE: Perhaps he was practicing. (Laughter.) But, anyway, like I said, he's looking forward to it, he's excited, like any proud father is, to see one of his daughters get married. You've heard the President and Mrs. Bush talk about this over the last few days. They're all very excited about it, as is the whole family, and looking forward to it.
Q She's already down there, right, Mrs. Bush? When is Jenna -- is Jenna there already, too, or --
MR. JOHNDROE: Yes. Mrs. Bush has been down there and Jenna has been down there for a few days, right.
Q Is Barbara there already?
MR. JOHNDROE: You know, I'll have to check on other family members, but rest assured that the very large Bush family is all going to be converging in Crawford to celebrate this weekend.
Q We're all concerned about getting some kind of a readout after the event. Do you expect us to get anything? Even what you told us now is helpful. We're going to have to cover this whether we're there or not.
MR. JOHNDROE: Right. I would reduce your level of concern and be assured that there will be absolutely no readout of the wedding, whatsoever. This really is a private event for the family. If we can -- if the family decides -- and I think they may -- on Sunday to release a couple of photos of the ceremony, then we will certainly provide those to you. But otherwise, I think the activities of the weekend are going to be a really private celebration for Jenna and Henry's family and friends.
Q Was 41 on board today? There was talk that perhaps he had been spotted at the White House yesterday.
MR. JOHNDROE: You know, former President Bush is often at the White House. I believe he was there earlier this week, but I think he has already gone down to Texas. Marvin Bush and his family are on board today. Marvin Bush, one of the President's brothers -- Marvin and his family.
Q There's some conflicting reports about Burma. First reports said that there was a U.S. plane that landed. Then we had reports that said that the U.S. did not have permission to go. What's the latest on that?
MR. JOHNDROE: The latest on Burma is we are involved in negotiations with the Burmese government, as are many governments and aid organizations from all over the world, trying to make arrangements so that our assistance and these other countries and aid organizations' assistance can get into Burma to help the people there. I would just say at this point there are ongoing discussions. We're hearing conflicting reports as well. We have -
Q So we don't have permission yet?
MR. JOHNDROE: As of our departure time, I was not aware that permission had been granted, but I would just say that we are hopeful. We are hopeful that permission will be granted not only for United States aid but all sorts of international aid. As you know, we have been involved through the State Department in talking with a number of governments, both in Washington as well as in their capitals, such as the Chinese and the Thais. We appreciate the Chinese and any other governments who have used what influence they have on the junta to encourage the junta to allow aid in. And so all of these efforts are ongoing. The bottom line is, we want to get aid into Burma as quickly as possible.
Q Gordon, are these talks directly between the United States and the Myanmar government, and at what level are they taking place?
MR. JOHNDROE: I think most of the talks have taken place through our embassy in Rangoon with the Burmese government. There may be also some talks at other -- in other capitals, but I don't have a specific level of official at this time.
Q So nobody at the State Department or the White House is talking directly to their government?
MR. JOHNDROE: Well, our chargé, a State Department official, certainly has. I'd refer you to the State Department for any more details on that.
Q Gordon, can you say whether any of the three-and-a-quarter billion -- million dollars, rather -- that the U.S. has pledged has gotten to its destination?
MR. JOHNDROE: Right now USAID's disaster team located in Bangkok is working to get that money into the hands of aid organizations. And so we're hopeful that money will begin flowing onto the ground in Burma, but for any specifics I think USAID and the State Department will have a briefing later on this morning to talk about that.
Q Is he going to be doing his normal activities down at the ranch this weekend, since there's this big affair -- like, is he going to go -- probably do the exercise and the chopping of the cedar and all that stuff, or is that pretty much on hold this weekend?
MR. JOHNDROE: No, I think this weekend he'll receive his normal intelligence briefings. I expect he'll work on the ranch, try and get a bike ride in. He does have a lot of other obligations this weekend, but I think he'll try and wedge those into the schedule.
Q Are they -- is the Bush family hosting a rehearsal dinner since -- with the Hagers?
MR. JOHNDROE: I don't have any additional details.
Q What advisors are going to be with him down there, though, as far as the briefings and keeping him --
Q What is he going to do today?
MR. JOHNDROE: Normal staff that travels with him, and he'll be in touch with officials back in Washington, as well, and as I said, receive his normal intelligence briefings.
END 9:43 A.M. EDT