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

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 23, 2008

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

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12:39 P.M. EDT

MS. PERINO: Hello. Happy Friday before a three-day weekend.

Just quickly, I wanted to let you know a little bit of something about a product that we weren't able really to showcase as much as we were the other ones that you saw on the South Lawn today regarding free trade. The President this morning discussed on the South Lawn the importance of opening markets for the products made by American workers and farmers. And I thought I would highlight this here: Golf -- I've got a golf ball with me -- still remains enormously popular here in the United States, but the biggest growth market for golf is actually overseas. And approximately 35 percent of the sales of American-made golf balls go to international markets, and that is where their biggest growth is. It accounts for 75 percent of their revenue growth.

Korea is a huge market for these products, even with the significant tariffs that exist. Colombia is a smaller market, but golf products face significant tariffs there. And it would be a growth market in the long term. These golf balls are made by an American company and American workers in Massachusetts. The number one impediment to growth companies that produce golf products here in America are the taxes imposed by other countries, Korea and Colombia included. In Korea, U.S.-made golf balls face an 8 percent duty; in Colombia there's a staggering double-hit of a 20 percent tariff and a 16 percent tax on any U.S.-made golf ball.

Congress, as you heard the President say today, needs to recognize that our workers in America deserve a level playing field, just as people around the world are getting -- being allowed to send their products into these countries without any tariffs. We just deserve a level playing field here in America, and the President will call on them --

Q In golf?

MS. PERINO: Golf and all the other issues. I'm not a big -- I'm not -- putt-putt golf? Putt-putt golf is a growth industry, possibly. (Laughter.) Carnivals.

But it's just another example of the many -- there's many different products, from the largest tractors to the smallest things, from fruit and vegetables to things like golf balls. And I think that American consumers -- I'm sorry, American consumers at the back end -- workers here in America deserve a level playing field. And when Congress gets back, President Bush expects them to get to work and follow through on the deal that they agreed to over 18 months ago.

Q I wanted to ask about McCain -- three fundraisers next week. First of all, why are they closed? And second, do you all expect that sort of pace, I mean, three in a week, that kind of thing, to continue?

MS. PERINO: I think we'll see -- I think we'll see, in terms of a pace. President Bush is fully committed, 100 percent committed, to making sure that John McCain is elected to be the next President of the United States of America. So he'll do what he can, when he can, in addition to being -- fulfilling all of his duties as Commander-in-Chief and President of the country.

The reason that they're closed is that the McCain campaign has a practice of having their fundraisers as closed press; and these are in private residences, which is where we have had closed press fundraisers, as well. But I expect that you'll see campaign activity pick up over the course of the next several months. But remember this election is -- the President is not on the ticket. John McCain is on the ticket and we'll see who is going to be on the ticket for the Democrats. And McCain is going to have to tell his story and get out and tell the world why he should be President of the United States. He'll have to contrast his positions with that of whoever the candidate is going to be on the other side of things, and the President will be there helping to do that.

Q To follow up -- you're saying that the McCain campaign announced it may they be closed?

MS. PERINO: I'm saying that the locations are at private residences and that -- their practice has been closed press fundraisers for -- across the board, both at private residences and other places. As you know, our practice has been somewhat different -- when they're at a larger locations like hotels, ours have been open. But that's their practice and we'll respect it.

Q Can we actually expect to see them together at any point publicly?

MS. PERINO: Next week?

Q Well, not necessarily next week, but in the near future?

MS. PERINO: Sure --

Q I mean, initially -- (inaudible) supposed to be open, at least the first one --

Q So they will be together?

Q I mean, appearing publicly together?

MS. PERINO: They'll be together in Arizona, but then we break off and we go on to Utah and --

Q Publicly, though?

MS. PERINO: Stay tuned for the details, but I think that you'll see a -- when we arrive or when we depart, I think there will be a chance.

Q Just to follow up on that, the President endorsed McCain in March, and now two months, almost three months, when this actually happens, he's going to be getting out to campaign for him. Why so long?

MS. PERINO: I think you need to look back and look at the President's schedule, and also look at President John -- President McCain has a nice ring to it, but it was a little bit premature. President Bush has done several fundraisers here in town, but he's not raising money just for a McCain campaign, but for Republican candidates everywhere. President Bush is a formidable campaign fundraiser, as has been reported over the years, and I expect that he'll continue to be.

But remember, he's not on the ticket. And also, President Bush, since that time, in, it was early March -- late February/early March -- President Bush has had an international trip to NATO; he has traveled the country to host a international summit in New Orleans, where we hosted Prime Minister Harper and President Calderón; and then we just recently got back from a trip to the Middle East where the President is trying to help bring that region along to a Middle East peace conference. And we'll do what we can when we can. But the President has Commander-in-Chief responsibilities. And next week we have a chance to go out -- we'll also be doing a commencement address at the Air Force Academy, and then we head off to another international trip in early June.

So we'll do what we can when we can.

Q So it's scheduling, that's why?

MS. PERINO: I won't say. But again, President Bush isn't on the ticket. John McCain is on the ticket, and he's the one who's out there making the case for why he should be President of the United States.

Q Dana, you're hinting -- when you said "on departure and arrival," are you suggesting there might be a picture together on arrival --

MS. PERINO: There's not -- I don't have details yet, but that's possible. And we'll try to get you more information as we get closer.

Les.

Q Thank you, Dana, two questions. After six years of legal effort, the American Council for the Blind has finally won a decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that since all paper money, from ones to one hundreds, are the same size, this discriminates against the blind. And my question: Since a federal judge noted that more than 100 other countries vary the size of their bills, does the White House believe we should as well?

MS. PERINO: That is something that the Treasury Department has been handling. They are named in the lawsuit, and they are taking it very seriously. And they'll be talking with the Justice Department, I'm sure, to determine their next steps, because I don't think -- the litigation is not completed yet.

Q Okay. Senate Minority Leader McConnell and 28 other Republican senators introduced the Domestic Energy Production Act to allow oil production in only 8 percent of the entire ANWR area. And my question: Does the White House believe that the nation needs to know that among those senators who voted to defeat this bill, which could have cut the now huge cost of gasoline, were certain United States senators from Illinois and New York?

MS. PERINO: No; it's very interesting, though. Thanks for pointing it out.

Q The President realizes this, doesn't he?

MS. PERINO: I don't know if he did a whip count.

Q All right, thank you.

MS. PERINO: Go ahead, Victoria.

Q You said several times that the President is not on the ticket. Are you seeking to distance the President from Senator McCain?

MS. PERINO: Victoria, I'm stating a fact.

Q Right, which we know.

MS. PERINO: Well, okay, then, no, I'm not -- I'm seeking nothing but to tell you that the President is not on the ticket, he's not running, and you can't -- you don't expect for him to be out running for President. He's done that twice and been successful.

Ken.

Q Dana, have decisions been made on whether he will do campaign trips with McCain?

MS. PERINO: I don't know if they've gotten that detailed yet, in terms of ramping up as we go over the next several months. So at this point, I couldn't tell you. And I'm not really involved in those scheduling discussions.

Roger.

Q On a related question, can you talk a little bit about how the White House coordinates with the McCain campaign on future appearances, whether they're fundraisers or some other kind of event?

MS. PERINO: Just basically -- based on my limited awareness of how it is, there's a few people who are -- have the appropriate -- clear ability to have regular conversations with the McCain campaign. For example, I was asked earlier this week if we coordinated our Cuba speeches -- two things on that. One, it was Cuban Independence Day, which is why we were all talking about Cuba. And as Dan Fisk told you the other day, this week is one that the Cuban people think is symbolic of their fight for freedom. So that's why those campaign --

Q But you did coordinate on the --

MS. PERINO: Well, we let them know that we would be giving the speech. The President's schedule is pretty open. I mean, you guys know what he's going to be talking about weeks in advance. But there are some things that we can let them know in terms of -- we just don't want to make sure -- we want to make sure that we're not stepping on each other's toes or getting in the way of something that they want to accomplish, and we're cognizant of that.

But also he's the President of the United States, and so he will give speeches and talk about issues depending on where and when he is. For example on the Cuba speech, we let them know that the President would be making some -- a new policy announcement on the gift parcels, as we talked about the other day, when it comes to the cell phones. We offered to provide details, but they apparently didn't need any and they didn't call back on that.

So I would say it's in some ways casual in that a lot of the people that are working for the McCain campaign are friends of ours and the -- Barry Jackson's office does a lot of the conversations with them, as does Ed Gillespie -- but all appropriate conversations and ones to give them as much of a heads up as we can on -- and also to find out topics that they're going to be talking about.

Q And there would be closer coordination in this, as the months march on?

MS. PERINO: Well, I think that in any campaign, in the last six months it intensifies in terms of the schedule and so we'll take a look there. But remember the President also is committed to not just helping John McCain, but to helping Republican candidates across the board and up and down the slate.

Ann.

Q Is the veto override vote on the farm bill and the vote on the Iraq supplemental evidence that the President is facing now a kind of lame duck syndrome where he doesn't have the leverage with Congress that he once did?

MS. PERINO: I've been asked this question for about a year, and so I don't --

Q Well, I'm asking it now -- (inaudible) -- actual vote.

MS. PERINO: And I know you're asking it now. I think on the farm bill, though, I think that it says a lot more about Congress than it does about the President.

Q Why?

MS. PERINO: Well, I think that they've made a decision in an election year that they can throw caution to the wind and throw fiscal discipline out the window and pass a bill that will cost taxpayers an enormous sum of money. And the President had very clear principles all along the way on the farm bill, and they decided that Congress was going to overrun that. That's their right. They didn't quite do it exactly the way that they thought they would, but I'm sure that that will work itself out when they get back and they'll be able to fix the mistake.

Q How about the war supplemental?

MS. PERINO: But on the war supplemental, we have a long way to go when it comes to the war supplemental. It takes two Houses of Congress, and what I saw the other -- yesterday in the votes was that, if you look at the Senate vote in particular, they stripped out any conditions on tying the hands of our commanders, which was one of our principle -- one of the President's principles that he requires for these war supplementals. And so I think that we have won that debate so many times in the past that they decided not to even go down that path.

We'll have a discussion about the money and adding the bridge funding to the supplemental, and we know that -- it must be that many members of Congress think that this might be the only bill that moves, which is quite a sad commentary on what Congress should be able to do for the American people. And that is probably why they want to ladle on lots of different special projects. The President thinks that some of those projects may be meritorious, but they should have that debate outside of funding for the troops.

Q So do you think there is a lame duck effect, or do you think that's an urban myth?

MS. PERINO: I think that it -- I don't think that it applies, and especially in these two cases. I think that any time you have a Congress that's nearing the last several months of their legislative session, they try to get more done as they get closer to these recesses, like Memorial Day recess. I am sure you'll see a lot of activity leading up to that last week of July before they go on the Fourth of July recess, but time is running out to get a lot of things done.

And if you go back to one of the reasons that the President sent up the Colombia legislation, it was precisely because we are mindful of the calendar and we know that there's not going to be a lot of activity in Congress probably after July. I'm not exactly sure when their target date is for adjournment. I think it is sometime in August, because they're all going to want to go out and get on the campaign trail. So there's only so much we can do with the calendar.

Q Dana, General Petraeus yesterday indicated that he believes there could be additional troop reductions in the September time frame. Has he already talked to the President about that, given him any kind of indication that that's the line of thinking he -- that's where he's going?

MS. PERINO: Well, they talk regularly -- at least once a week, if not twice a week -- and they were able to see each other this week. On Monday the President had a secure video teleconference with Prime Minister Maliki --

Q Did they discuss, though, in terms of --

MS. PERINO: No, no, and I think it might be just a little bit too early to tell. Now, I don't know what they talk about in their private meetings, and I'm sure General Petraeus continues to give him an update. On the good news side of things, Iraq has continued to improve from the Iraqi security forces. Their economy is improving, and the political reconciliation that we are looking for, once the security situation has improved, is all starting to come to fruition.

And the President has said to General Petraeus, you've done the job we've asked you to do, you've done it well, and let me know what you need and how much you are going to need as you try to finish this out in order to complete the mission. And one of the things he said to the families yesterday, the families of the fallen when we were at Fort Bragg, is that he can -- he didn't know how else -- how to provide them a lot of comfort, because he knows the pain that they are in. But he did promise them that their loved one's loss would not be in vain.

Then he will look to General Petraeus and General Odierno to identify for them -- identify for him what they think can happen in the fall. And I think that even General Petraeus said that while he would like to be able to and he thinks he'll be able to, it's too early to tell right now.

Olivier.

Q Dana, Chris Hill is going back to the region next week, as I understand. The State Department seems to be very optimistic that this is a big step towards getting a North Korean declaration. Do you agree with that? Should we expect to see a North Korean declaration over the next couple of weeks?

MS. PERINO: I think we're going to have to wait and see. I think the trip is an important one that Chris Hill will undertake. I think State Department released the dates earlier today. And we'll have to wait and see. While we are hopeful that we are nearing a period where we can get a full and accurate declaration from the North Koreans, we have reason to be skeptical that it could happen on a certain time frame. So I think instead of saying yes or no, I just think we need to wait and see what will happen.

Q Do you expect him to stop here before he goes over there?

MS. PERINO: Chris? Ambassador Hill? I don't know, but we can check.

Wendell.

Q A question on two different issues. Are there talks going on with Speaker Pelosi's office on the Trade Adjustment Assistance she says she needs improved before she'll allow a vote on the Colombia free trade agreement?

MS. PERINO: Well, I know that we have had contact with them in the past, because President Bush has said that as part of the deal in order to get the Colombia free trade agreement and the other agreements passed, we are willing to talk about Trade Adjustment Assistance and how to improve upon it, make sure it's effective, and that he was willing to increase the amount. But I'll have to refer you to USTR for specifics as to the conversations that are going on between their staff and her staff.

Q The comments from Russia and China about missile defense system, do you feel that Moscow is being a bit disingenuous since negotiations between Washington and Moscow continue on that?

MS. PERINO: Well, I think that earlier in the week, President Medvedev said that this is something he wants to continue to have discussions about. We recognize that they've said that they would have -- that they have concerns about it, and that's exactly what President Bush was there and talked about when we were there in late April -- I think it was April; if not, a little bit earlier -- in which President Putin and President Bush agreed that we would continue to have conversations and discussions in order to address their concerns, to make sure they know that a missile defense system would not be aimed at Russia. In fact, any suggestion that it would be aimed at Russia is -- does not have a lot of weight because of the way that the Russians and their military could crush such a system.

So we are continuing to work with them, both on the reasons why we think we need a missile defense system and the technical components of, which we've been having conversations between our military and theirs over the past little while.

Q And you're not troubled by China's concerns now?

MS. PERINO: I would say the -- I would not say we are "troubled." I would say that we are aware of their concerns and that we are working to address them.

Matt.

Q Just to follow on that. Is there any concern that President Medvedev, so early in his administration, has taken such a strong stand condemning the missile system, and in public? And do you see this as being a possible harbinger of future relations with Russia?

MS. PERINO: No, and I would encourage you to look back to what President Medvedev said earlier in the week as well. We know that this is an important issue that they take very seriously. We do too, and we understand that they have concerns, and it's concerns that we want to address, and that's why we have an open conversation with them. And one of the reasons that the President wanted to make sure it was very clear last April when we were there that Russia and the United States have a strong relationship, a complex one, but a good relationship on a range of issues. And because of the relationship he has established with President Putin, we can have a frank exchange of views, but also work on issues where we can try to solve a problem. And on this one, we are trying to address their concerns.

Q Thank you.

END 12:56 P.M. EDT


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