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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
July 31, 2008

Press Gaggle by Dana Perino
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Kennebunkport, Maine

1:00 P.M. EDT

MS. PERINO: We are on our way to Kennebunkport, Maine. We are halfway through the day, so sorry we're getting this a little bit late, but I think it worked out better in the end. He had his normal briefings this morning, and you know he had his statement on Iraq. He had the event with the Scouts in Action commendation. The President then gave his speech at the West Virginia Coal Association, so you have that.

Congressman Nick Rahall did travel up with us. I don't know if you had a chance to see him, but he visited with the President in the President's office on the way up there.

And I have a couple of announcements. I'm going to make the delegation announcement for the Olympics. The President, Mrs. Bush, and Ms. Barbara Bush will attend the Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Games in Beijing, China on August 8, 2008. They will also be accompanied by an official delegation that includes the following people: The Honorable George H. W. Bush; T. Randt, Jr., United States Ambassador to the People's Republic of China, and his wife Sarah; Mr. and Mrs. Marvin and Margaret Bush; Mrs. Doro Bush Koch; and Mr. And Mrs. Roland and Lois Betts; and finally, Mr. Brad Freeman.

One thing that I've been asked about a couple of times this week and said that we were checking into was the CPSC bill -- the Consumer Product Safety Commission bill. We have had a chance to review it. I can announce to you today the President will sign that bill. We are committed to ensuring that the products that come into America are safe for consumers and that the regulating agencies have what they need in order to do their job. Fortunately, Congress made headway on some of the concerns that we had expressed and so that we are pleased that they included some of our suggestions, and especially from the action plan for import safety -- that was, I believe, from -- that Secretary Leavitt put forward.

We still have a few concerns, but not enough that would keep us from signing the bill. So the President will sign that as soon as they can get it to us.

I also was going to give you some proactive reaction, if that can be done, on -- there's a district court decision in a case today that regards a civil lawsuit regarding compelling testimony from Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten in front of Congress. The decision that came down, it ruled against us. We disagree with the district court's decision; we are reviewing it, and once we have had a chance to do that, we'll consider whether the decision should be appealed. And then I can update you from there.

A couple of things to note: The court did not rule on the executive privilege claim. It did not order anyone to testify on privileged matters, and it did not order anyone to produce privileged documents. It did not decide that senior advisors to the President are not entitled to immunity from compelled testimony under any circumstances, and specifically mentioned national security and foreign affairs matters as possible areas in which immunity might be available. The court did not order the executive branch to produce a private log describing documents withheld on executive privilege grounds in response to Congress's subpoena. In fact, the court held that he lacked authority to order production of a privileged law in response to a congressional subpoena.

So the court has merely directed the executive branch to produce a log as part of this litigation to assist the court in deciding which, if any, documents are subject to a claim of executive privilege.

I just give you all of that because, even if you're not writing it, I think your folks back at your bureaus are.

Q Is that being released on the ground also?

MS. PERINO: No. I don't believe so.

Q Is the White House going to -- is one of the questions the White House has got to decide is whether to exert executive privilege to these questions?

MS. PERINO: I think that's central in the -- to the case.

Q But you haven't decided to do that yet? You're reviewing it?

MS. PERINO: Well, I would need to go back and check. I thought that we had. I see what you're saying. I believe that the court says --

Q I don't think that's been implicit --

MS. PERINO: I believe that what the court says is they ruled against us and that you have to appear. It doesn't mean that you lose your executive privilege capabilities, but you have to appear. And the question is whether you have to appear or not. I think that's what it comes down to.

Q So the only issue is whether you have to appear --

MS. PERINO: I think so. I believe so.

Q You've got to invoke the --

MS. PERINO: Right. And I will double-check that with the lawyer, with our lawyer back home. But in the meantime, DOJ can. But I believe that's what it is.

Q Yes. As I understand it, you have to make --

MS. PERINO: I don't think we had because we believe that they weren't subject to testifying in front of Congress. So we don't have to invoke it unless you go up there.

Q Who is reviewing the --

MS. PERINO: Counsel's Office. And then, of course, the Justice Department, the lawyers there.

Q -- do you expect it to be a day or two?

MS. PERINO: I would assume so. Sometimes it takes a while for them to be able to review it all and make a decision. But we disagree with it, and I'm not going to prejudge a decision whether or not to appeal.

Q Can you talk about what lies ahead on the energy issue? Is the President going to do more events for the remainder of August?

MS. PERINO: Well, the President is going to continue to talk about energy, yes. And I think that Republicans and Democrats across America are going to continue to talk about it, because if you look at all of the signs that the American public opinion -- where it's moving on these drilling issues, or looking for sources here in America in environmentally friendly ways, I don't think it's going to go away. We have said that the high prices that people are paying at the pump are not something that can go away overnight, so people are going to be living with this.

And increasingly, Americans are more educated about the need to add more supply to deal with the rising demand that's happening around the world. So the President will continue to talk about it. But I think, more importantly, constituents are going to start pushing Congress to try to get them to do more.

All we've asked this week is for Congress -- the Democrat leaders in Congress to allow for a vote. And they haven't done that. It looks increasingly likely that they'll skip town and go home on vacations and campaigning, and not actually deal with this one central question, which as we've said, would not have immediate impact, necessarily, on prices -- we don't know, and our market prognosticators -- but what it would do is send a signal that we're serious about trying to find more of our own resources here. And if we had done this 10 years ago, today's outlook might look very different.

But of course, the President is going to be in Kennebunkport this weekend, and then he leaves for his Asia trip on Monday. I'm sure in his bilateral meetings he'll have with the President of South Korea and then again in Thailand and China -- the issue of high energy prices is not something just Americans are facing, it's something that the whole world is facing. And so we'll update you on the road, but I believe that he'll be talking about it there, as well.

Q Can you talk about whatever is going to be the subject at Camp David Sunday afternoon when he arrives, with the officials? (Laughter.)

MS. PERINO: Yes. As you know, he met with the leader of Abu Dhabi, and he'll meet with this leader this weekend. It's a private and I would say important meeting, but also casual. These are our hosts from when the President went to UAE in January. He had a fantastic time when we went to the dinner in the desert. But he also is very intrigued by their work to modernize their economy. So I'm sure they'll talk about that. I'm sure they'll talk about the issue of energy. Counterterrorism cooperation is always a big topic when it comes to talking with an ally like that. So it will be a range of issues like that.

Q How do you react to Exxon put out the report of the earnings today -- $11.7 billion? What kind of message does that send to consumers that are struggling --

MS. PERINO: I think consumers are well aware that they're paying higher prices at the pump. But I believe that they also understand that the root causes of supply and demand is what's leading to these higher prices. So a couple of things need to happen. Here in our own country we have to start looking for more of our own sources, and in ways that don't get bogged down in litigation.

As you heard the President say today, when it comes to trying to do new energy projects your capital can get tied down for years and you won't be able to produce anything -- energy, whether it's for electricity or for your vehicles.

At the same time, we need to be looking for new technology that will give us more efficiency for using less of what we need. And the third track is finding renewables or alternatives to the traditional oil and gas and coal that we've been using. Coal we want to continue to use. We've figured out ways to do that in a clean-burning way. What we would ask the private sector to do is to reinvest to help build these new technologies and to look for these alternatives and these renewables, and to help us find the technologies that will help us be able to use less.

And I think if you look to what the private sector is doing, they are responding to the market. And one of the things that consumers have proven is that they will adjust their habits and they will drive less if prices continue to be as high as they are. So the market is working in that respect.

Q The President mentioned a comprehensive plan a couple of times. Is that something that -- is there going to be an actual comprehensive plan --

MS. PERINO: I'd actually refer you to the comprehensive plans that we have. And if you -- in fact, I would go back and look at that -- just for kicks this weekend, if you have a little extra time, go back and look at that 2001 energy document that the administration put forward. It talks about almost all of these issues: more nuclear power, more clean-burning coal, more wind power, solar power, renewable energy like ethanol and cellulosic ethanol, as well as finding more of our own traditional sources like in ANWR or the oil shale or out on the Outer Continental Shelf.

So we have a comprehensive plan. It's also been reflected not just in the document in 2001, but in every sequential budget that the President has had. I think in almost every State of the Union he's talked about these issues. So we're going to just keep pushing on that. And Congress has had in front of it lots of these issues -- for example, on the oil refinery issue, one of the President's ideas was to use closed military bases to site these new refineries, since we haven't built one in America since the 1970s. There's lots of little pieces that add up to this comprehensive plan that the President was talking about.

But you're asking me if there's new policy to be announced. I think we've announced a lot of it along the way. We're just waiting for Congress to act. We've acted where we could, from the executive branch standpoint, but we need Congress to do their job, too.

Q -- figures this morning showed that economic growth is a lot slower than what you've --

MS. PERINO: In the fourth quarter of last year?

Q The fourth quarter it was .02 instead of .06, and it was .9 in the first quarter of this year instead of 1, which suggests that -- it raises the odds that we were, or have been, or may have entered a recession.

MS. PERINO: I don't think any of the analysts are saying that, necessarily. But I think what it does show is that -- if you look back, we were very transparent that we expected flat growth in the fourth quarter of last year. We ended up with the initial reports being at .6. Now it's revised back down.

Q -- you were going a lot slower, you didn't say flat.

MS. PERINO: Well, I remember believing -- I remember believing, and I believe I said, that we were expecting growth to be pretty flat. And we were pleased --

Q Didn't say flat.

MS. PERINO: Well, we can go back and check the transcripts, but there's -- nobody was saying that we expected big growth in that quarter. And I think actually people were quite -- not surprised -- not pleasantly surprised, but pleased that we were at .6. So now it's revised back. I mean, that happens.

But since then, you've had three quarters where we see a trend going in the right direction. A couple of reasons for that is the President recognized this problem early in the fall last year and worked to address it. When it looked like we needed an even bigger emphasis on the stimulus package, the President came back from his Middle East trip and worked with the leaders in Congress on a bipartisan basis and got it passed. And now we're seeing that stimulus package actually have an impact.

Now, the housing crisis has lasted longer than any of us would like, but we hope that this housing bill will be able to help us send a signal to the market to increase stability, confidence in the market, to help pull us out of it. In addition to that, I think nearly all of the stimulus checks are out, and the retailers are showing signs of renewed vigor in their sector.

But there's no doubt that the energy prices are a drag on this. And so we are going to have to keep working at it.


Q A couple of housekeeping -- are you gaggling tomorrow?

MS. PERINO: I will gaggle tomorrow, probably around 10:30 a.m.

Q Okay. And what plans does he have -- I was told there was a tent set up at the house. Is there a family event, a wedding? What's going on?

MS. PERINO: Well, there's nothing public yet, so we don't have anything -- no public events on the President's schedule. But we'll keep you updated as things change, because sometimes that's the way it is up here. He's looking forward to coming up to Maine to be with his family. His mom and dad are here, his brothers -- his brother and sister I believe will be here, as well. At least one brother that I know of. And they'll spend some time getting together. They'll hopefully be outside if it doesn't rain and spend some time in his last summer that the President is President of the United States.

Q There's some staff wedding this weekend. Is he involved in that?

MS. PERINO: At this moment I have nothing to announce in terms of the schedule. But there is --

Q But it's a wedding?

MS. PERINO: There is a wedding, yes.

Okay? All right. See you on the ground.

END 1:14 P.M. EDT