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

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 27, 2008

Press Gaggle by Tony Fratto
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Andrews Air Force Base

1:07 P.M. EDT

MR. FRATTO: We're on our way back to Washington, D.C., I guess the last visit to Crawford for August, for last August, last hot August in Crawford for the President and all of you. So we're on our way back to Washington.

The President had his normal briefings this morning. He'll return to the White House, and then this evening, the President will have dinner with Secretary Rice. As you know, the Secretary was recently in the Middle East for meetings with the Palestinian leaders and the Israeli leadership, and previously was in Poland, Georgia and Iraq. So Secretary Rice will have an opportunity to update the President this evening on developments in all of those areas.

Then we have a couple quick announcements for you. Last year President Bush signed an executive order to direct specific federal agencies to facilitate the expansion and enhancement of hunting opportunities and the management of game species and their habitat. In this EO, the President directed the Chairman of the Council of Environmental Quality to host a White House Conference on North American Wildlife Policy for exchanging information and ideas about the goals of the EO. Today we're pleased to announce that this conference will be held October 1-3 in Reno, Nevada. We'll have more details about the speakers and the agenda in the coming weeks.

And also, I mentioned yesterday and just want to reiterate today that we're, of course, paying close attention to Tropical Storm Gustav. FEMA officials from throughout the Gulf region are reviewing all the plans and procedures in advance of the storm's potential landfall next week. Officials are reviewing supply prepositioning plans, and they're examining contracts for transportation of response items, which may be needed if the storm impacts the region.

It's important that citizens in these areas take the storm warnings seriously, listen to the guidelines of local authorities, and take necessary precautions, including adhering to any potential evacuation orders, if they're issued, in order to protect themselves from the storm.

So just an update that FEMA officials are in contact with disaster assistance agencies in the full breadth of states that could be impacted should this -- especially if the storm would strengthen and intensify and make landfall sometime -- I think the latest estimates are early next week.

With that, I'll take your questions.

Q Tony, at the dinner tonight, are they also going to try to map the way forward on the crisis between Russia and Georgia?

MR. FRATTO: You can expect them to have extensive discussions about where things are going with respect to Russia and Georgia. Obviously the President has had communications with his staff and others. Last night he spoke to President Saakashvili again to get an update from the President, and Secretary Rice has been speaking to her counterparts.

I think what you saw yesterday, the reaction to Russia's action to attempt to recognize the two republics was met with a very strong international response of condemnation for that decision. And so I think Secretary Rice will have an opportunity to report back on Russia and Georgia; certainly on how the talks in the Middle East are going; her discussions with respect to Iraq and other areas.

Q -- phone call?

MR. FRATTO: There was a phone call, yes.

Q From the President to --

MR. FRATTO: President Saakashvili called President Bush.

Q What was the substance of the phone call?

MR. FRATTO: I don't have a readout for you on it.

Q Tony, do you have any thoughts, comments on the Russian President reaching out to the Chinese President to recognize Georgia?

MR. FRATTO: No, the Chinese leaders will make their own decision. I think we've seen no countries follow Russia's lead. And I think you can take that into comparison to, say, for example, recognition of Kosovo, where scores of countries followed the lead to recognize Kosovo.

Q Tony, NATO has called for Russia to rescind its recognition. Are you seeing --

MR. FRATTO: I think everyone has called on Russia to rescind its decision.

Q Do you see any signs from Moscow of a chink in their armor and backing down on this?

MR. FRATTO: I'm not into looking for signs. I think we will continue to make our case. Europe, the United States and other leaders around the world will make the case to Russia that this is a very short-sighted decision on their part, and it's forced them to take a step back with respect to their relations with the rest of the world, and that step back has costs and consequences.

I think you've heard others out there -- even since yesterday I saw David Miliband give a very excellent speech today in the Ukraine. I think we would agree with I think everything that the Minister said in Ukraine.

Q Tony, the President first issued a statement urging Russia's leaders not to grant -- or to grant independent status, and then issued a statement condemning it. Why doesn't the President pick up the phone and call the Russian President, talk to him directly about it?

MR. FRATTO: That's a decision for the President to make. It could be a decision that he may want to make at some point in time. And he hasn't -- like I said yesterday, there's no ambiguity with respect to our position, and the Russians understand that. We've been very clear, the European leaders have been very clear, NATO has been clear. The Secretary General of the United Nations made his position known yesterday. So I think Russia has gotten the message. I'm not going to try to speculate as to when that message will influence their decisions.

Q Tony, do you see this in any way as Russian payback for the U.S. recognition of Kosovo?

MR. FRATTO: No. I --

Q But Medvedev seemed to think they were related.

MR. FRATTO: That's something for him to answer. Each -- every one of these situations is different, and to try to compare them is just -- it's --

Q It's what?

MR. FRATTO: It's not a -- it doesn't follow rationally. You can go back and look at the facts of Kosovo and see that there was extensive international involvement in how to resolve the situation in the former Yugoslavian republics. There was long-established evidence of genocide in Kosovo. There were entreaties and envoys -- entreaties made to leaders in the former Yugoslav republics and envoys sent to discuss these issues. The outcome was part of a very elaborate international process.

None of these things happened with respect to Georgia and the two republics. So the comparisons just simply don't hold up. And, by the way, it was only, what, a week, 10 days ago, that President Medvedev signed an agreement brought to him by President Sarkozy that specifically called for international discussions to resolve the status of the two Georgian regions.

Q Did the President watch any of the Democratic Convention last evening?

MR. FRATTO: I think he saw some of the coverage of it. I don't believe he was watching the convention itself. But I'm sure he'll watch parts of it at some point this week. You know, he's obviously a fan of politics and campaign politics and enjoys that, and I'm sure he'll find an opportunity to watch some of it here or there.

Q Is he surprised to learn that he has been head of the Bush-McCain administration? (Laughter.)

MR. FRATTO: He is willing to -- he is supporting President McCain and he's aware of how --

Q President McCain?

MR. FRATTO: Did I say President McCain?

Q Yep.

MR. FRATTO: Well, we'll all be saying President McCain soon enough, don't worry. (Laughter.)

Q Thank you.

END 1:17 P.M. EDT

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