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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 30, 2008
Press Briefing by Dana Perino
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:36 P.M. EDT
MS. PERINO: Good to see you. Earlier today, President Bush met with his Cabinet and spoke in the Rose Garden about the importance of addressing our nation's energy needs. And as you heard the President say, Democratic leaders in Congress need to stop standing between the American people and the vast energy resources we have here at home. And we believe they should allow a vote to expand exploration.
Tomorrow, President Bush will travel to West Virginia. He will discuss not only the high impact gasoline prices are having on Americans, but also the broader energy landscape. He will talk about our efforts to harness the power of new technology to strip out pollutants like sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury, and to capture carbon emissions from coal in order to allow coal to continue to provide over 50 percent of the electricity like it provides today. We're also attempting to try to reduce its impact on the environment and we're having some good success in our country in that regard.
Additionally, the President will discuss administration efforts to eliminate the barriers to expanding our use not only of coal, but of nuclear power, as well, which is a clean energy source which could power our economy for years to come.
The President recognizes, as do Republicans in Congress, that we need to increase the supply of all forms of energy -- wind, solar, alternative energy, renewable energy, and at the same time we should expand our safe and environmentally friendly domestic drilling here at home, in the Outer Continental Shelf and in Alaska, and also to start developing oil shale to a greater extent.
And so that's what you'll hear from the President tomorrow.
Q Dana, is the fact that the President didn't have a ceremony or a statement about the housing bill when he signed it a sign at all that he's trying to keep some distance from it and he doesn't want to be too closely allied to it?
MS. PERINO: When a President of the United States, no matter who it is, signs a bill, that's putting your name on it. And we said last week that there was a provision of the bill that we think bailed out lenders rather than helping homeowners, and we didn't agree with it, but we recognized that the timing was such that we needed the bill sooner than later. And having a prolonged veto fight that we were convinced we would win, and we proved that we would win, was not in the best interest of the housing market and of the credit market. And so that's why the President signed the bill today.
Q But isn't there -- do you acknowledge there's any significance to when you have a more formal ceremony, like for PEPFAR?
MS. PERINO: Sometimes there is. Sometimes we have ceremonies, and sometimes we don't. He's already having one today that's open press, and a big to-do in the East Room, celebrating America's generosity of helping people all over the world who have HIV/AIDS. This is a tremendous effort, bipartisan effort, that reauthorizes a program that has taken our international AIDS treatment from 50,000 people when he first took office to over $1.8 million people today. And this reauthorizes the bill for five years. And I would daresay that that deserves a larger signing ceremony than anything else that was passed this week in Congress.
Q Dana, what's your reaction to the Justice Department report where they -- the report essentially says, yes, that there was inappropriate influence on politics and ideology that was part of our hiring and firing practices?
MS. PERINO: Well as I have read the coverage of it -- I haven't read the report, but as I read the coverage of it, there's obviously information in there that would cause concern to anybody. And we agree with Michael Mukasey that -- the Attorney General -- that there was concern. There should be concern any time anyone is improperly using politics to influence career decisions. We believe that is improper. We could absolutely not defend that. And we are pleased that the Attorney General has taken steps to change it there at the Justice Department.
Q Can I infer from that that President Bush is disappointed in Alberto Gonzales?
MS. PERINO: I think that if you look at the report, and it is in line with what the Attorney General said at the time, which was that he was not aware of that going on. And so I don't think there's anything -- disappointment doesn't necessarily go to the Attorney General.
Q You don't think it would change -- it doesn't change the President's --
MS. PERINO: No, I don't. The whole situation -- the whole situation in terms of the politicization -- or accusations of politicization -- if you look at career hires that should not have had any sort of questions put towards them as to what sort of party they represent, or what affiliation they might belong to, or who they might vote for -- those are inappropriate for career positions. And the President is glad that the -- Attorney General Mukasey made sure that that is no longer ongoing at the Justice Department. And it's nothing that we could defend, and we never have.
Q But you won't go so far as to say that, looking at Alberto Gonzales's Justice Department, President Bush is disappointed this was going on?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think that we are -- overall disappointment in the situation, sure.
Q Dana, this is according to Roll Call, they say a senior GOP aide says that Senate Republicans are going to accept Harry Reid's offer of four amendments to -- the chance to debate those -- to the energy bill. So they'll get a chance for the up or down vote on those four. Any reaction, thoughts on that?
MS. PERINO: Well, I don't know which amendments they are, so I -- oftentimes they have these discussions to vote on whether or not there can be a vote. So if they move forward and they get this, I guess that would be a step in the right direction, but that's only one step. And remember, on -- especially when it comes to the Outer Continental Shelf, here at the executive branch, President Bush lifted his moratorium on Outer Continental Shelf drilling. Congress has to do the same. I don't know if that's part of the amendments or not, so --
Q -- one of the four that they -- that the Republicans --
MS. PERINO: Okay, so then I think that -- but remember, in Congress there's also a two-step process. The House would have to move, as well, and without that type of action, I don't think we'll be satisfied, and I don't think the American people will be satisfied either, and for good reason.
Go ahead, Jeremy.
Q The International Olympic Committee today admitted it had agreed to a deal in which some Internet sites in China would be blocked during the Olympic Games, despite pledges otherwise for openness. What's the White House reaction to that?
MS. PERINO: Well, I would encourage -- I haven't seen what the IOC said in context. I want to make sure that that report is accurate, so I'd refer you to the IOC for specific comments from them on what they did or did not agree to, or what they said about this situation.
But let me take a step back and tell you, President Bush has long said that China has nothing to fear from greater access to the Internet, or to the press, or for more religious freedom and human freedom and human rights. And that's one of the things that he talked about yesterday with the dissidents he met with here at the White House. We want to see more access for reporters. We want to see more access for everybody in China to be able to have access to the Internet. It has grown over time, but we think that it would be -- that China would be enhanced and continue to prosper if it allowed for more freedoms. So that's what the President will be talking about on his trip there.
Q Why did the President decide to meet with these dissidents yesterday? And it seems as though the administration is sort of, despite his statements that -- the President's statements that the Games are about sport, sporting competitions and not politics, there seems to be a concerted effort by the White House to also acknowledge these bigger political dynamics.
MS. PERINO: Well, there are. But I think that there are a lot of people who see it differently from the President -- and that's okay. The President says he's going there to support our athletes and all the athletes who have made it this far in their sporting careers. So he will go to cheer them on. At the same time, the President has continued to press China and given them a chance to say -- telling them that the Olympics represents the best possible chance for you to share a compassionate heart and to show what the Chinese spirit can really be all about.
And there are clearly people who have suffered human rights abuses around the world that the President has met with repeatedly since 2001, and as he says, when he has his Freedom Institute, he'll continue to do that for the rest of his life.
But when you ask me about the lead-up to the Olympics, clearly there are people who have decided that now is the appropriate time for them to raise their voices. And the President was more than happy to meet with them yesterday. He gave them a lot of time to tell them their stories, and then he reassured them that his strong commitment to human rights and religious freedom will continue throughout his presidency and beyond.
Q Dana, The New York Times reported that an emissary was sent to Pakistan to confront concerns about members of the ISI working with militants along the border earlier this month. Can you shed any light on that?
MS. PERINO: I cannot. I am not able to comment on that story.
Q Well, how about this element -- if true, your comment about Pakistan not doing enough -- all countries not doing enough in the war on terror -- would it then be true to say that Pakistan is actually hurting the effort along the border, at least elements inside that country?
MS. PERINO: I'm not prepared to say that from here. You can check around to other agencies and see if they would be. I think that when it comes to Prime Minister Gillani and President Bush, they are of one mind that the -- that al Qaeda and the terrorists pose a threat not just to the United States, but to Pakistanis, as well. And they saw that firsthand when Prime Minister Bhutto was assassinated.
We are going to continue to work with them. We are trying to work with their military. We've had good relationships with Pakistan over the years. But this is a tense time for everybody, as we work to do more to combat terrorism.
Q Senator Stevens is going to be arraigned tomorrow. Does the President plan to reach out to him at all, or has he talked to him?
MS. PERINO: No, I don't believe they have spoken. I can check on that for you and see if he will. But I don't know of any plans to. The President has worked with Senator Stevens for many years. Obviously he is innocent under our system of justice until proven otherwise. And so we'll let the Justice Department handle the legal matter and not comment on it further.
Q You've been lowering expectations for a long time about tomorrow's what had been hoped for strategic framework agreement. What are the hangups? What's keeping the two sides apart?
MS. PERINO: Well, it's a fairly complex agreement when it comes to the broad issues of the economy -- let's see, the economy, security matters, diplomacy issues, political matters. While we've been working on this agreement with them, it's a negotiation; things go back and forth.
And while we've been working on it, the Iraqis have increasingly gained confidence in their political system, because they've been able to work together and get some of these laws passed. I just today, just now, saw that the Iraqis have called a special session of their parliament because they're going to try to address this Kirkuk issue, which is at the heart of the problem of trying to get their provincial elections law passed.
So while we've been trying to work on the agreement, they've been improving their capabilities. We've had the Basra raid, Mosul raid, Sadr City. And so the Iraqi security forces are improving. And so we're trying to figure out how do we continue to develop a broad-based relationship, one that is based on the respect of both sovereign nations, in a way that can help foster this democracy, and not move too fast, too soon, to disrupt any efforts to cement the gains that we've made.
So it's just taking a little bit longer. But they continue to meet, the negotiators continue to meet, and Prime Minister Maliki and the President keep in touch through their negotiators and also via their secure video teleconferences that they have every other week.
Q What about on the central issue of the U.S. troop presence? What are the hangups on that?
MS. PERINO: Well, I think we talked about this a week ago or two weeks ago, when we -- I'm not going to negotiate from the podium, but I can tell you that what we're trying to do is figure out what sort of aspirational goals we could look towards so that we could start to -- well, continue bringing more troops home based on successful implementation of our strategy. And trying to figure out what that horizon is just takes a little bit of time.
Q Your tone here would suggest that there's really nothing imminent on a strategic framework agreement.
MS. PERINO: You know, things change almost every day and they make some progress, and just like in any negotiation you get close and then there's a little bit of a step back, and then you get a little bit closer. So we'll keep you updated, but I don't have anything imminent to announce for you yet.
Q On the same thing, would you expect something to be wrapped up while the President is in China?
MS. PERINO: I just couldn't put a time frame on it. If I told you "yes" or "no," then inevitably I'd be wrong.
Q What's your general outlook? Does it look like something could be wrapped up by then?
MS. PERINO: We're just -- we're working on it, Roger. I couldn't put a time frame on it. But they're nearing the end of the negotiations, and so that's why it's a quite intense period right now.
Q Yes, on drilling, Republicans, the White House, you guys have been hitting this note pretty consistently and you seem to be making some progress -- polling would show that. But then Senator Stevens' indictment yesterday, do you feel like that's derailed this momentum that you have, or at least made it harder for you guys to push Congress?
MS. PERINO: I don't think so. I think that it's apples and oranges.
Q You don't believe that it's made it harder to get them to at least move this week?
MS. PERINO: When it comes to --
Q What do you mean by "apples and oranges" --
MS. PERINO: Well, I think when you're talking about drilling for our natural resources in the Outer Continental Shelf or in ANWR, or developing oil shale, that people would see that quite differently from somebody being indicted on totally unrelated issues. So that's why I call it apples and oranges.
But I do think that we've made progress. And the reason that we have is because there's been a concerted effort to educate Americans who recognize the issue. They understand the law of supply and demand. They recognize that we have resources here in our own country that we know best how to tap into. And I think that they're quite sick and tired of telling other countries that they should deplete their resources in order to feed our habit -- our appetite for oil and gas.
So you'll hear the President talk about that a little bit tomorrow. But in addition to that, we face a similar future in the power see issues when it comes to permitting and streamlining, the issues of nuclear power or even coal, clean coal technologies.
Q I mean, there's no doubt they're apple and oranges substantively, but in the political environment, do you feel like it's made it harder this week at least to --
MS. PERINO: I don't know. I'd refer you over to the Senate -- as Kathleen just said, they apparently just made some very serious progress, if it's true that they are going to be allowed to vote on these measures. So I think that that answers the question.
MS. PERINO: Go ahead.
Q Thank you, Dana. Two questions. Senator Cornyn has said that the President "must step forward and commute their sentences. It's clear that Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean will not receive the relief they deserve. It is incomprehensible to me that an illegal alien, drug smuggler was allowed to violate his immunity agreement, perjure himself and be granted a series of unlimited visas." And my question, first question: Does the President believe the Republican Senator from Texas is wrong?
MS. PERINO: All I would do, Les, is point you back to what we have said before, which is there is a process in which people in our country can ask a President of the United States for a commutation of their sentence, and that process can take place if those individuals want it to. And I would also point you to the U.S. Court of Appeals, who just recently ruled on that decision. I would encourage you to take a look at it.
Q I did. Can you as Press Secretary for the Commander-in-Chief of our Armed Forces, deny that there has been any decision to put a female aboard a U.S. Navy submarine?
MS. PERINO: I would refer you to DOD. I really haven't talked about that before.
Q You don't know of any --
MS. PERINO: I don't -- no. I don't.
Q Thank you, Dana. The Israeli Prime Minister will make a special statement shortly, amid strong speculation that he will announce his resignation. Was there any conversation recently between the President and the Prime Minister?
MS. PERINO: There has not been in the last several days. And so I saw that he announced that there was going to be an announcement. I'm going to let him make it, and then we'll comment after that.
Q What would any resignation by the Prime Minister mean for the peace talks?
MS. PERINO: Since that's a hypothetical question, let me just let him make his announcement and then I'll come back.
Go ahead, Paula.
Q On the consumer protection bill, the White House had major objections to this bill. Several provisions are still in that compromise. Does the White House support it now?
MS. PERINO: We're still taking a look at it. We do think that the consumer product safety bill moved in our direction a little bit on some of the issues that we were concerned about. That doesn't mean we don't have some concerns that remain. So that's why we're taking a look at it. They made headway addressing some of the problematic issues, such as the ones that Secretary Leavitt put out in -- I think his letter came out I think Friday or Monday, Paula. I'd refer you to that letter because it lays it out pretty clearly. And then we'll get back to you later today once we have an answer on whether or not we'll be able to sign that deal -- that bill.
Q Two quick questions, Dana. One, can you just assess Prime Minister Gillani's visit to the White House, whether it was successful visit? And also if President had really pressed him hard as far as FATA area is concerned and --
MS. PERINO: Well, I briefed immediately following that meeting on Monday, so I'd refer you to my briefing.
Q And second, if President was briefed or not on the ongoing bombings in India, throughout India? And now India is on a high alert, especially New Delhi.
MS. PERINO: He was updated on that in his regular briefings and he expresses his condolences for all the innocent people who lost their lives or were injured. And we stand with the Prime Minister of India as they try to root out and seek out these terrorists. I know that they're looking for them very hard, and we'll help in any way that we can.
Q Thanks, Dana.
MS. PERINO: Thank you.
END 12:54 P.M. EDT