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

For Immediate Release
June 23, 2008

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

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12:43 P.M. EDT

MS. PERINO: Hello, everybody. I don't have anything to start off with, so --

Q The stock market is down, the oil prices are up. I take it that this wasn't the outcome you would have wanted from the energy summit.

Q Yes, things are going to hell in a hand basket.

MS. PERINO: Will attribute that to Bill Plante. (Laughter.) Look, look back to what we said going into the conference, which is that this is going to take a long time for us to deal with. There's no magic wand, it's not going to be a problem that we solve overnight. And I don't think anybody anticipated that this conference was going to have an immediate impact on price or on the stock market, which, of course, we don't run predictions on anyway.

So what we need to do is take a longer-term view, make sure that we are sending a signal to the market that we want to increase supply here in our own country, as well as continuing on our conservation efforts to decrease demands so that we can get this balance back in place.

Q Wouldn't more supply in the short term help more quickly than long-term planning for oil that can't be gathered for another 10 years?

MS. PERINO: I think that the important thing to do in regards to the long-term planning is to send a signal to the market so that they know that this time the government of the United States is serious. For several of the energy debates over the past decades the answer has been, no, let's just continue to get more oil from overseas and not focus on the conservation efforts. But we've had over the past several years a concentrated effort to both bring down demand here in our own country by fuel economy, by widening efficiencies and other things that we've done even in the federal government, but in addition to that, looking for ways that we can increase domestic production here in our own country.

So there's a long-term answer and there's a -- there's not a real good short-term answer. And we've been very explicit about that from the beginning.

Q But the short-term problem is what seems to upset people as they go to fill their cars up every day.

MS. PERINO: We absolutely are sympathetic. We understand. Many of us are consumers, too. We know that this is actually having a larger impact and a disproportionate impact on low-income people, as well, and these are people that have to get to work every day just like we do. So the important thing that we need to do is continue on -- to continue the conservation measures, work on a way to send a signal to the market that we're serious about increasing domestic production here in environmentally sensitive ways, and in addition to that, find ways that we can continually express to the American people not to expect a short-term response. There's not going to be a short-term response, and it would be irresponsible for anybody to suggest there would be.

Q It's going to be a long wait.

MS. PERINO: Well, that's what we've been saying for a while.

Q Dana, you're saying it's about supply and demand. But back in May when we were in Saudi Arabia, after the President met with King Abdallah and he said that he was not really going to increase production sharply, the administration was saying it was not about just supply and demand, that there were other factors affecting this. What's changed since May?

MS. PERINO: I don't know, I was there on that trip and I don't remember necessarily that part of it. Maybe you could refresh my memory, because you've got it all underlined there.

Q Mr. Hadley did a gaggle where he said, what the Saudis are saying -- he said this in May -- "What the Saudis are saying is we can put more oil on the market, and will if someone comes to us and says they want to buy it." What the King is saying is that there are other factors that are affecting price other than unmet demand.

MS. PERINO: One of the things that he -- I think that they were talking about is refining capacity, because there's different types of oil that come on. And I don't pretend to be an expert; there's plenty of energy experts and you all can interview them. But there's an issue of refining capacity, and the type of oil that you get and what type of refineries are able to process that oil so that it can make it into our gas tanks. And not all the oil that is being put on the market is something that we can directly utilize here. And so I think what they were saying is that they could put out this different type of oil on the market, and there might not necessarily be a buyer.

So I think that there's that aspect of it. And that's one of the things the President has called for, which is, one, expanding refinery capacity here in our own country, as well as possibly even building more refineries. But there have been considerable roadblocks to that in terms of the permitting and environmental -- basically putting up roadblocks to make sure that these types of refineries aren't built in people's neighborhoods.

And so I think across the board there's many different things that need to be done, and consumers, who are also constituents of their elected leaders here in Washington, are starting to put the pressure on leaders to not just have a policy of "no" on the Democratic side, but to work with the Republicans. There's several bills out there that we could work on, including offshore oil development.

Q But isn't it clear now that demand is a problem, when they were saying there really is not -- that there's not unmet demand, they were saying in May? Isn't there --

MS. PERINO: Well, I would say that we have always said, going back to anytime I've talked about this over the past several years, that the decrease of supply or the leveling off of supply while demand is increased, that is really the big -- the problem. The law of supply and demand is Economics 101.

Q And last thing. Senator Obama is saying speculation is a big part of this. The administration seems to reject that; Secretary Bodman over the weekend saying in Saudi that speculation really is not the issue here. But the Saudis themselves came out yesterday and said they do believe speculation is a problem. So where does this White House --

MS. PERINO: We believe the fundamental problem is the basic one of law -- the basic law of supply and demand. We do think that speculation could have impact on the day-to-day volatility in the market. But over the long term what we have seen is a leveling off of supply and a dramatically rising -- rise of demand, and that is what the fundamental problem is.

But in terms of the day-to-day volatility or turbulence in the market, perhaps that can be attributed to speculators, and the CFTC is looking into that aspect and all the other aspects that go into this, as well.

Q And a follow to that. Congress is actually perhaps considering legislation to set stricter limits, or even ban trading on energy futures in some markets. Is that something that the White House -- I mean, what's your position on that?

MS. PERINO: I think the best place for that discussion and that review is at the CFTC, and we'll let that independent agency look at it and then review any of their recommendations. I know that Walter Luken is heading that up.

Q Dana, the leader of the opposition in Zimbabwe has abdicated his run for the presidency. I'm wondering, what is the response officially from the White House? And is there coordinated effort internationally to apply pressure on the regime there?

MS. PERINO: Absolutely. The United States is going to the U.N. Security Council today; we want the world to be speaking with one voice to condemn the violence and intimidation that has taken place against the opposition and also against the Zimbabwean people. It was abundantly clear that the Tsvangirai party won on March 29th. And consistent with their constitution, they agreed to a run-off. But subsequently, President Mugabe decided to subvert democracy and to thwart the will of the people of Zimbabwe, to the point that the opposition leader has decided he would no longer participate in the run-off in order to protect his own people.

And it's tremendously sad for the people of Zimbabwe, and it's very troubling. What we are looking for is for the world to be speaking with one voice in strongly condemning the violence and making sure that anything that we do continues to put pressure -- bring pressure to bear on the Mugabe regime so that the will of the people can be realized.

Q Dana, a follow to that. Are you -- is this administration looking at Mugabe as the legitimate President of Zimbabwe? And I'm asking that as the British government is now saying that he is not.

MS. PERINO: I think you have to look at what Secretary Rice said this morning -- I'll just recap it here -- which is that the opposition clearly won that election on March 29th. They agreed to a run-off election, consistent with their constitution. Following that, President Mugabe made it abundantly clear that he wasn't going to allow the will of the people to be realized and had set about, with horrible intimidation measures and killings of innocent people and jailings of innocent people, such that even now the opposition leader is reportedly seeking refuge in one of the embassies because he fears for his life and for that of the people who have been following him.

We do not believe that the Mugabe regime can be considered legitimate until a free and fair election is allowed.

Q So the opposition leader did not formally, apparently, withdraw.

MS. PERINO: That's right.

Q So -- and the elections are still going to be held on Friday, so technically, he is still in the race --

MS. PERINO: As I understand it, there is a technical step that would need to be taken for him to formally pull out of the race with a letter. But I think that he's made his intentions very clear. And while we are disappointed that we have this outcome, we understand the decision that he made.

Q So you're saying basically your view, the White House view is that he's officially pulled out, whether he has formally --

MS. PERINO: No, we'll have to see if he takes this next step in terms of a letter. In fact, he might have already done that; I don't know. I'm certainly, obviously, not on the ground there. But I think that he's made his intentions very clear. And regardless of that, April, the Mugabe regime was never going to allow a free and fair election to take place on Friday. I think that the world had come to realize that, which is why they're going to take it up once again at the U.N. Security Council today.

Peter.

Q Dana, at the gaggle this morning you -- back on energy and politics -- you suggested the public should get behind the President's plan and the Republican nominee, as well. What's your philosophy going to be about campaigning from the podium?

MS. PERINO: Well, it's not as easy a line to walk as I would like. Obviously you've heard the President; he's spoken himself, and I've said here that the President supports John McCain for President, he believes that he's going to win. And I think that -- I got a lot of questions over the weekend on whether or not we had agreed with Senator McCain's position, and obviously we did because we had the same one. And I think that comes from serious people taking a serious look at a serious problem, which is our energy one, and that is that any of those people looking at that problem could come to the conclusion that we have to unlock the resources that we have in our own country and allow us to explore and produce more oil in domestically -- I'm sorry -- domestically, but also in environmentally friendly ways, because we know how to do it best here in terms of producing that type of fuel here.

Q Well, this is an issue that, as you probably know, this issue of campaigning at the podium affects press secretaries for every outgoing President, for his own party. Do you anticipate doing a lot of this on every issue?

MS. PERINO: Well, one, I think that you've seen me here -- I haven't done a lot of it in the past and --

Q Yes, but I'm asking if you anticipate --

MS. PERINO: It's not necessarily -- look, I just answered a question about Senator Obama's position. And you know, I'll have to see how it goes. I don't -- I intend to express what the President believes, which is that he believes John McCain should be the next President of the United States, and agrees with his views on offshore oil drilling.

Q Your predecessor, Tony, campaigned -- made campaign appearances and speeches for candidates, congressional candidates and so forth. Do you think you're going to be doing that yourself?

MS. PERINO: I've done a couple in the past, but I don't think I'm necessarily in as high a demand as Tony Snow was. (Laughter.)

Q Don't sell yourself short.

MS. PERINO: Wendell.

Q Can I follow April's question --

MS. PERINO: Sure.

Q Secretary Rice said the Mugabe regime -- and this is a quote -- "cannot be consider legitimate in the absence of a run-off." Prime Minister Brown said, "President Mugabe no longer remains the proper, rightful leader of the country." Is there any space between those two?

MS. PERINO: No, I don't believe so, and I believe Secretary Rice and David Miliband, the Foreign Minister for -- of the UK, are on the same page. And one of the things that they'll do at the U.N. Security Council today is continue to hammer on this need for the world to speak with one voice. And increasingly you've seen, Wendell, the African leaders, many African leaders coming out and expressing their dismay over what's going on in Zimbabwe and calling for the free and fair election. And I think that that is something that we are wanting to continue. We are wanting to make it stronger. And so the U.N. Security Council is one of the best places for us to do that.

Q And on African leaders expressing dismay, are you satisfied with the level of pressure that South Africa has placed on the Mugabe --

MS. PERINO: The way I would put it is that we think that every leader could do more, because obviously this is a problem that is not just affecting one of its neighbors to the south, but it affects all of Africa. And on a human level, it affects all of us. And the President is very concerned and gets updated regularly -- he got updated this morning by the NSC expert on this issue, as well.

Go ahead.

Q Dana, is the United States preparing to remove North Korea from the terrorism list?

MS. PERINO: Well, we'll -- what we've been waiting for is for North Korea to issue to the Chinese, as the chairman of the six-party talks, its complete and accurate and verifiable declaration. And there is word that they would try to do that by Thursday. This is a deadline that the North Koreans themselves have put out there. We'll see if they decide to do that. And from there, as you can see from the agreements that we've had, there is action for action.

But the key is we want a denuclearized North Korea, but part of getting there is getting this declaration. Before any other actions are taken, that declaration has to be reviewed and considered verifiable.

Q Do you have any reason to believe that they won't do it on -- by Thursday, as they --

MS. PERINO: Only based on past experience, that deadlines have been kicked down the road before. But I couldn't say either way whether or not they'll meet this one. We hope that they do, but when they do and if they do, it has to be one that is correct and verifiable.

Laurent.

Q To follow up on that, will you consider any declaration acceptable if it does not address the issue of North Korean cooperation on nuclear --

MS. PERINO: Well, I'll refer you to the State Department on that. Obviously, Secretary Rice spoke at length about this last week, and what we know is that there was cooperation between the two. And so we all know that, and we made it clear that we would let the whole world know that, so the world is operating from the same perspective. So we'll see what the declaration says, but the bottom line is, all of us know it.

Q But again, will this -- any declaration be acceptable if this issue is not addressed?

MS. PERINO: What we want to see is a correct declaration and one that is verifiable, but I'm not going to prejudge it before we see it.

April, again.

Q Yes, ma'am. Dana, back on the energy issue, you said we should not expect a short-term fix. Are you saying that in the next seven months, we shouldn't see anything really new, or any major changes before this President leaves this White House?

MS. PERINO: April, that's impossible for me to say. I think that anyone who would pretend to be able to predict the market from this podium would be foolhardy. But what I can tell you is this: There's a sustained problem that we've had over the past several years where we are not producing enough oil to keep up with the rising demand, not just in our own country but in countries around the world that are increasingly enjoying more prosperity -- which we welcome, but at the same time we have to figure out ways for more conservation, more alternative fuels, and more renewable fuels.

And so that is a problem that is going to last for the next seven months and beyond, and it's something that we believe needs to be tackled in a way that would be sustainable. The Congress should be able to do this before they leave. There's a few different actions that they could take before they leave for their August recess, and we would encourage them to do so.

Q Dana?

MS. PERINO: I'm going to go right over here. I'll come back over there.

Q Dana, on the North Korea issue, have you set a date for six-party talks?

MS. PERINO: Have I set a date for the six-party talks? Well, no, I don't think so. They obviously -- we talk regularly with all of our six-party members, and I believe Secretary Rice will be in Japan later in the week. She's there for a ministerial before the G8. But many of her partners will be there in terms of talking about the six-party talks, so she'll be there later in the week.

Q Dana, when did the North Koreans alert the administration that they intended to submit the declaration on Thursday?

MS. PERINO: I think that this is a date that they -- that's been out there for a while. It's not anything that -- I didn't necessarily think of it as new because I'd heard and read about it in the past, so this is something --

Q So you don't know the time frame of the --

MS. PERINO: No, I don't. It had to have been within the last year, I guess. Maybe the last six months.

Yes, Les.

Q Thank you, Dana. Two questions. The President believes that the First Amendment, freedom of speech and the press, should not be denied to radio and television by the so-called Fairness Doctrine, doesn't he?

MS. PERINO: That's correct.

Q That's correct. Republican congressman Mike Pence of Indiana has introduced the Broadcaster Freedom Act, which needs only 24 more signatures on a discharged petition to go to the House floor for a vote. And my question: Since, in the House, both of Maryland's Republicans have supported the Broadcaster Freedom Act, but all six of Maryland's Democrats have refused to do so, the President recognizes this as an indication the Democrats generally want the return of the Fairness Doctrine's on-air censorship, doesn't he?

MS. PERINO: Well, I don't know if that's necessarily the case, but it sounds like you have some lobbying work to do up on Capitol Hill, so we should dispatch you up there and see if you can get it done.

Q He's not allowed to lobby and hold a press pass at the same time, remind him. (Laughter.)

Q Thank you very much. Thank you very much, CBS. (Laughter.)

MS. PERINO: I'm going to go to Ed Henry.

Q South Korea -- do you have any status report on whether the President plans to head to South Korea, to travel --

MS. PERINO: I don't. We haven't announced the trip yet, but in regards to the South Korean deal with the -- regarding the beef issue, the U.S. Trade Representative thinks that they have gotten to a place that we could agree on regarding the age of the cow that could be sent over as beef to South Korea. And we'll see if they -- if the South Korean government is able to move forward on that. And any announcement about a trip will hopefully be forthcoming soon.

Q Thank you.

END 1:02 P.M. EDT


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