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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 2, 2008
Press Briefing by Dana Perino
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:35 P.M. EDT
MS. PERINO: A quick announcement: The President met this morning with a group of preeminent economists to highlight the passage of two tax cuts that have proven to help lift our economy out of recession in 2001, and following the economic slowdown after the 9/11 attacks. Those tax cuts led to a long period of economic growth and to the longest unbroken run of job growth on record, which was 52 consecutive months, and only recently ended when we started experiencing the slowdown in the housing market and in the high energy prices that we continue to experience.
The President made the case for how important it is to make the tax cuts permanent. If Congress allows the tax cuts to expire it would result in the largest tax hike in American history. It's ironic that today, as we highlight a successful tax cut, that Congress is set to begin debate on the Warner-Lieberman bill, legislation that if enacted would result in one of the largest costs ever imposed on Americans.
The President said last April that there is a right way and a wrong way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and he laid out principles for what he believes is the right way: Investing in new technologies, setting realistic goals, emission-free nuclear power, and ensuring that we act in concert with statements by all major economies, including China and India. The bill being debated on the floor this week in the Senate is the wrong way. And we will have a statement of administration policy that will go out momentarily that explains our objections to this bill. But to put it simply, we believe it would cost way too much and achieve way too little.
Also this morning, the President chaired the regular meeting that he has with the National Security Council on Iraq. General Petraeus discussed the continued improving security trends, including the decline in levels of violence to levels last seen in early 2004. The General also provided a brief update on operations in Basra, Sadr City and Mosul. The President was also briefed on the International Compact for Iraq, meetings that Secretary Rice attended last week in Sweden, as well as Iraqi regional diplomatic efforts as they work to improve relations with their neighbors.
Ambassador Crocker highlighted continued Iraqi legislative efforts on their elections law and hydrocarbons law. And the President was updated on discussions about the strategic framework agreement. Negotiations continue between the U.S. and Iraq. They are positive and being done in good faith. The White House and the government of Iraq believe that the negotiations should produce an agreement that strongly affirms Iraqi sovereignty, and while the process is ongoing it remains transparent with both the Iraqis and the United States government keeping our legislative -- respective legislative bodies informed.
Q Is there a veto threat on Warner-Lieberman? The President didn't mention that in his remarks.
MS. PERINO: As it is drafted there will be -- I'm sorry -- not as the SAP is drafted, as the legislation is drafted, if it were to pass in its current form, the President would veto it. But I think that by any measure, by any reporting, if you look at the fate of this bill, it's very unlikely to pass the Senate anyway.
Q Is the President opposed to all cap and trade systems, or just this one?
MS. PERINO: The President hasn't seen a cap and trade system designed yet and proposed to this Congress that he could support. And so I think that we have to look at -- we have to deal with what we're -- the cards that we're dealt, and this is the legislation that's before us. And because -- it doesn't take into account how expensive it would be for the American public. And frankly, this debate is actually not a bad one for Americans to have because while we can all be concerned about the environment and we can be concerned about how do we tackle greenhouse gas emissions, one thing that really hasn't been talked about a lot is, what's it going to take for this country and other countries to be able to achieve the objective of addressing climate change?
And this bill would really damage our economy, threaten jobs to be sent overseas because if other countries don't have the same types of regulations we do, then entrepreneurs are more likely to site those businesses elsewhere. And then what you've done is you've sent the jobs overseas to places where they don't have the emissions reductions that we have. And so you haven't solved the environmental problem and you exacerbate a economic problem.
Q Is it going to require some sort of mandatory effort by the government?
MS. PERINO: There are several different mandatory efforts that are underway with this government. Now, a specific cap and trade for this country may or may not be in the cards in the future. Right now, with the bill that we have in front of us, the President couldn't support it. But there are different mandatory things, such as energy efficiency and -- for example, the other one is the CAFE standards. The President suggested that we reduce our traditional gasoline by 20 percent in 10 years. Congress last December passed a bill that was not quite as aggressive, but still got us a long way towards increasing miles-per-gallon standards -- CAFE standards, they're called.
And then recently, Secretary of Transportation Peters, Mary Peters, said that we could actually do a little bit farther and faster than Congress wanted us to do on improving efficiencies for vehicles. So we're going to go ahead and go forward on that path, and that's mandatory.
But some of the other things that we have done in this country are voluntary, and I would say that it -- we are one of the only countries, if not the only country, with a advanced economy that has been able to reduce actual emissions growth even while our economy has grown. So there's a right way and wrong way to do it, and the President is more interested in doing it the right way.
Les, go ahead.
Q Yes, thank you, Dana. Two questions. The Washington Post quoted Florida's Senator Nelson as saying of Saturday's National Democrat Rules and Bylaws Committee Meeting, "One million seven hundred thousand voters turned out to the January 29th primary in Florida, who violated no rule. They did not move the election date forward -- the Republican legislature did." And my question: Does the President believe Senator Nelson is in any kind of error in making this statement and in asking that Florida delegates be given a full vote?
MS. PERINO: I'm not really well versed in the state politics of Florida, so I'll have to send you back to Florida to hash that out. It's not what -- that's not how I understand how it happened down there.
Q Good. The Washington Post also reported of this Rules and Bylaws Committee, "They decided to give Florida and Michigan half their voting rights -- one of the more arbitrary compromises since the 1787 decision that a slave should count as three-quarters of a person." And my question: Surely the President, as our chief executive, believes that no Florida or Michigan citizen of either party deserved to be treated as a half-citizen, doesn't he?
MS. PERINO: He'll leave it to the Democrats to sort that out. That's their decision.
Q Isn't he concerned about this?
MS. PERINO: I didn't talk to him.
Q I mean, he believes in fairness, doesn't he, Dana?
MS. PERINO: I didn't talk to him about it. This is the Democrats' party and this is their -- they're going to have to hash it out for themselves.
Q What should we expect out of the meeting Wednesday afternoon I think you said with Olmert?
MS. PERINO: With Prime Minister Olmert? In terms of -- what should you expect -- what do you mean? I would expect that they will have a meeting and talk about the Middle East peace process.
Q What points will the President be raising?
MS. PERINO: What points will be raising? Well, as he said from the beginning when we started this back in November, if you go back to November 30th at the Annapolis Conference, it's going to be a long effort to try to get the Palestinian state defined before the end of the year. So we're only about five-and-a-half, six months into that since they started in January. The President was there in January. He was then there again in May, and he'll see him -- he'll see Prime Minister Olmert this week. Secretary Rice saw them only I think a week or so ago.
So we continue to be engaged to try to help them, but we're not going to be able to solve the problem for them. They're going to have to continue to work together, and we know that their governments are talking to one other -- the Palestinians and Israelis. But there is a lot of tension, there is a of historical complexities that enter into this, but I believe that the President will see from Prime Minister Olmert that they continue to negotiate in good faith. And the President is going to push them, because the Israelis and the Palestinians both have to live up to the road map obligations if we're going to reach the goal of defining a state before the end of the year.
Q Did you find out anything more about the new housing that was announced over the weekend in the West Bank?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think it was actually -- I'm not sure if it's West Bank or Jerusalem. So -- but our position on the settlements is that we don't believe that any more settlements should be built, and we know that it exacerbates the tension when it comes to the negotiations with the Palestinians.
Q Yes, following up on this line of questioning. Will the President be sounding out Prime Minister Olmert on his political future?
MS. PERINO: Well, I don't know. We'll let that -- let's let the meeting take place. And private conversations like that would probably remain private.
Q But obviously, this has an impact on the continuity of talks between Israelis and Palestinians. It may have an impact on the U.S. involvement --
MS. PERINO: As far as I know, the Israelis and the Palestinians have continued to have talks in good faith while all of the discussion in the press has gone on in Israel.
Q Well, what is at stake there? What would happen if Olmert were forced from office? How big of a setback would that be to the process?
MS. PERINO: It's one of those things where you don't answer hypotheticals. But let me go back to something the President has said, that it's the Israeli people and the Palestinian people that are working towards this goal, and so it's bigger than just any one person.
Q Dana, different subject.
MS. PERINO: Anybody else on this?
Q Yes. On the settlements issue, do you draw a distinction between expansion of existing settlements and the creation of new ones?
MS. PERINO: No, we -- well, I would have to go back and look at exactly what the road map language has. I don't think I have it with me here. But we know that even if it is a settlement that exists and there's expansion of that settlement, that that is part of the problem in terms of Palestinians feeling that that is not acting in good faith when it comes to their negotiations. Obviously the Israelis see it from a different point of view, and that is one of the very difficult issues, along with the right of return issue, that they're going to have to work out.
Q The Guardian is reporting that the United States is holding terrorism suspects on U.S. ships. Is there any truth to that?
MS. PERINO: Jeremy, I saw that report and I did not hear back from DOD, so I'll have to refer you to Defense Department.
Q Can I ask about Scott McClellan? Last week in your statement you used the word "disgruntled" to describe him. Why did you use that word, "disgruntled"? Is he disgruntled because he was fired? Did he, in fact, resign? Was he pushed out?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think -- I hold it up because I wondered last week if you'd ask me this question. Being disgruntled means being displeased or being discontented. And I think that by any measure, if you look at Scott in his comments over the past week that he is displeased with his time at the White House. That's why I used that phrase. And when it comes to how he left the White House, I'll let him describe it. And we all fully supported him while he was here, and even after he left he had a lot of support from people at this White House. And so I think that "disgruntled" is the right way to characterize it.
Q But just for the record, so he did resign, though, he was not fired?
MS. PERINO: Technically, he resigned, yes.
Q Technically. (Laughter.)
MS. PERINO: He resigned.
Q He was asked to resign, though, Dana?
MS. PERINO: I'm not going to comment on it. He resigned.
Q Two quick questions. One, does the President think Scott is still his friend, or he lost one? Because Scott was really good press secretary, as you are, and he was very loyal to the President, as you are. So what do you think what President think about him now?
MS. PERINO: I think the President is just very sad about the situation and sad the way that it turned out. Obviously I think you could describe him as disappointed, but certainly doesn't harbor any ill will toward him, and is a forgiving person and is certainly not dwelling on the book.
Q Second, as far as Burma is concerned, people are still dying. And Secretary of Defense Mr. Gates, in Singapore, said that this is a genocide. What do you think why the international community --
MS. PERINO: Goyal, Secretary Gates did not say it was a genocide. I think we need to make sure that the record is clear on that. He used some pretty harsh language, it's true. He said it's -- it's what the President feels -- it's shocking, it's neglect in its worst sense, and it's horrible for the people. And all we want to do is try to be able to help them.
Q Why the international community and the U.S. taking this and not moving faster against the military dictatorship to save millions of other lives there?
MS. PERINO: Well, Goyal, it is a sovereign country, and we've done all we can to try to help get aid in there. We've gotten some in, but certainly not enough, and we just feeling terrible for the people who are there suffering.
Q The human rights organization Reprieve says there have been more than 200 new cases of renditions since 2006. Can you confirm that?
MS. PERINO: I can't, and I don't even know what Reprieve is. So I'll refer you to the CIA --
Q Could you look --
MS. PERINO: I'll refer you to the CIA.
Q Thank you.
MS. PERINO: Paula, last one. Sorry.
Q On the climate change debate, there's been -- the other alternative has been suggested of a carbon tax, the argument being that it would be easier to implement, among other reasons. Does the White House have any position at all on doing that?
MS. PERINO: I think what we have to do when it comes to dealing with this is look at what the President said in terms of his principles. There's a right way and a wrong way to do this, and Congress can come up with lots of different ways.
This bill that's in front of Congress right now would be one of the largest costs ever imposed on the American people, and that is a debate that we need to have and people need to be aware of the costs.
In the meantime, what President Bush is doing through his negotiators, including Dan Price and Jim Connaughton, is working with the major economies. And one of the things President Bush has done that other leaders have not been able to do, but I think that they're all grateful for his leadership on it, is to bring the major economies of the world together, including India and China, to the table to talk about how do we set a midterm goal, and then how do we all achieve it. We're not going to impose ways to get there on people, but we are going to insist that everyone comes to the table and that everyone be a part of it, unlike this current version, which would just harm our economy, cost our consumers, and not solve the problem.
END 12:49 P.M. EDT