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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 6, 2008

Press Gaggle by Scott Stanzel
Pool Hold
San Antonio, Texas

9:43 A.M. CDT

MR. STANZEL: Thanks, everybody. We'll go ahead and get started. I'll go through the President's schedule. I have a couple announcements to make, and then we'll go ahead and take your questions.

We are here in San Antonio. The President is attending a Congressional Trust 2008 reception. And Stuart should have just provided you the information about the location where he is attending that event.

This afternoon, the President will make remarks on judicial accomplishments and judicial philosophy at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza in Cincinnati, Ohio. And I'd like to point out a few things that the President will be talking about in his speech. He will recognize the good works of Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Alito, and other judges he has nominated and seen confirmed to serve on the federal bench. He will address the importance of appointing judges not to advance their own agendas, but to interpret the law and, of course, interpreting the Constitution as an enduring document that does not change with the whim of politics. He will also reiterate the President -- or the country deserves a President who will appoint strong, well-qualified judges, and a Senate that will properly consider and confirm these judges, and these judicial nominees and their families should be treated with dignity and respect throughout the process.

He'll call on the Senate to better serve the American people by removing partisan politics from and improving upon the judicial confirmation process.

So a little bit of background for you there. Forty-five of the President's judicial nominees have never been given a fair up or down vote in the United States Senate. There are currently 34 judicial vacancies in the federal circuit and district courts, and 16 additional vacancies are expected in the very near future. And leaving these vacancies unfilled delays the resolution of legal disputes and increases the backlog of cases, and that causes a disservice to all Americans.

And the event is being held -- hosted by the Ashbrook Center, which is a group located on the campus of Ashland University that provides educational programs, emphasizing the study of America's founding principles and constitutional government. It's also being hosted by the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies. And the President and Mrs. Bush will return to the White House at 6:00 p.m. today.

A couple schedule announcements for this week. Tomorrow, the President will have a chance to hear from businesspeople about how the current economic climate is impacting them. He will meet with employees from Guernsey Office Products in Chantilly, Virginia. Following that, the President will make remarks on the economy and the Emergency Economic Stabilization Plan* of 2008. Those remarks will be open press.

Q Is that at the White House or --

MR. STANZEL: No, that is in -- at Guernsey Office Products, Incorporated, in Chantilly, Virginia. It's an independently owned and operated provider of office products.

Q Do you have a time on that?

MR. STANZEL: That is at -- we'll get that to you.

Q Afternoon, morning?

MR. STANZEL: Afternoon. I'm sorry, that's --

Q I'm sorry, I just missed the very beginning where you said what the event was about.

MR. STANZEL: Oh, it's about the Emergency Economic Stabilization Plan* of 2008. That's what his remarks will focus on.

Q He was out there once before, wasn't he, at the Guernsey place?

MR. STANZEL: We can check. I don't know off the top of my head.

And then also, another update: On Wednesday, at 2:50 p.m. in the East Room, the President will sign the India civil nuclear bill.

Q Wait, today?

MR. STANZEL: Wednesday at 2:50 p.m. in the East Room.

Q He will sign the India civil nuclear?

MR. STANZEL: That is correct.

And with that I'll take your questions. Jennifer.

Q Two things. The event today on judges, is that a political event or a policy event?

MR. STANZEL: Policy event.

Q Even though he's going to talk about the need to elect people who will appoint certain kinds of judges, right?

MR. STANZEL: He'll talk about -- as I mentioned, he'll talk about the need for a President to appoint well-qualified judges, and the need for the Senate to confirm them in a timely fashion. And he'll talk about his own philosophy, appointing judges who do not legislate from the bench.

Q He's not going to say John McCain specifically --

MR. STANZEL: No, I don't expect that, no.

Q Okay. And then on -- back on the economy. You've probably seen the Dow going down today, so two things on that: Is there concern at the White House that this plan, this big plan is really not going to be enough to turn things around? And two, now that the plan is passed and it's moving to Treasury, what is the President's role? Like what is he -- is he just kind of stepping back and letting Paulson do the work? Is he engaged in trying to set this up and help day-to-day manage that, or how does that work?

MR. STANZEL: Well, the leadership of implementing the stabilization plan will occur obviously at the Department of Treasury. The Department of Treasury has been out talking about their plans to implement that as swiftly as possible. But the President obviously will stay very engaged on what's going on on the economic front. He'll be out talking with business leaders tomorrow, as an example, to understand how the economic situation is impacting small businesses that create the overwhelming majority of new jobs in this country.

So the President will stay very engaged. But the Treasury, the Fed, FDIC will all be taking steps to promote stability in our markets and confidence in our markets. And the President was pleased that Congress took the action they did last week, but it's going to take a little bit of time to implement this new program, but the Department of Treasury will act swiftly to do that.

Q But what about on the overseas -- you know, it's hit the European and the Asian markets very hard, coming into the new week. What does the President think about some of the steps that they're talking about taking overseas? And does he think that they should also do a $700 billion type of bailout plan?

MR. STANZEL: Well, we welcome the European discussions and appreciate the continued attention to the situation affecting the global financial system. The Treasury, the Fed, and others work with their counterparts to promote stability. And so we appreciate those discussions and they are ongoing. There's a great amount of concern around the world about the global financial system. And the President thinks that the plan that was approved by Congress last week and that he signed into law is the right one to deal with the specific issue of getting the credit market moving again so it doesn't have a deeper impact on people throughout our country.

Q Scott, can you talk about the President's message tomorrow in his remarks on the economy? Is he going to try to use these remarks to reassure the market, or to try to say, this is what we've done and we're -- you know, in some way to have a calming effect? What is his aim?

MR. STANZEL: I haven't seen his remarks for tomorrow, but obviously the President has spoken a lot about the situation with our economy over the last several weeks, in particular, as we're working with Congress to implement the stabilization plan. The President will talk about the challenges that he is hearing about from business leaders. He's going to -- before he makes his remarks, he will have a chance to sit down with business leaders to understand how the tightening credit markets are impacting their ability to expand their businesses, hire new employees, or just meet payroll. So those are things that he will likely focus on tomorrow, and we'll have maybe a greater preview for you later.

Q Will he mention them in his remarks today? Will he mention the economy and the --

MR. STANZEL: The remarks this afternoon focus on judicial issues.

Q But will he -- do you think he'll mention --

MR. STANZEL: I don't expect so.

Q Scott, can you talk a little bit -- has the President been in touch with Secretary Paulson this morning to get a read or a briefing, if you will, on the world market meltdown so far? Has he talked to him, Paulson?

MR. STANZEL: I'm not aware of any phone calls that he's made with world leaders, but obviously he has been in touch with staff at the White House, and I can get back to you on whether or not he's had a chance to speak with Secretary Paulson.

Q Is he concerned about the meltdown going on?

MR. STANZEL: I'd think -- I would refer you to the answer that I just gave to Toby. Obviously, we watch very closely the economic situation not only in this country, but around the world. And the officials from Treasury, Federal Reserve, FDIC, and other agencies throughout our government are in regular contact with their counterparts overseas to work cooperatively to promote stability and confidence in our markets.

Q Have they been in touch with their counterparts going into this week? Have they been in touch with them yesterday or today?

MR. STANZEL: You should talk with all of those individual agencies to find out their conversations. But obviously that is a normal course of their activities.

Q Scott, it seems -- a lot of the analysts seem to be talking already about concerns in the markets that this plan already is not enough, that there's already this -- at least the conventional wisdom growing, particularly in the overseas markets, that it's not going to be enough. Is there something that the President will plan to do to deal with that impression?

MR. STANZEL: Well, I'm not aware of whose conventional wisdom that is, but the plan was just passed and signed into law on Friday. It has not yet begun to be implemented. It is a vast amount of authority for the Treasury Department to buy up these illiquid assets, which have caused the tightening in our credit markets. It was the assessment of the economic experts in the administration, at the Treasury Department, that this was the right amount. The plan had to be big enough to deal with the problem, so the President has confidence that the Secretary will work to implement the plan in a way that eases that tightening credit market.

Q Maybe a better way to put it is, is the White House concerned about getting the message out that people need to have a bit of patience to make -- for this to work?

MR. STANZEL: I think that's fair, and I think that the Treasury Department, even in interviews that they've been conducting today, have been talking about the time line that they have for implementing the plan. Obviously they have a lot of things that have to go into setting up the structure for implementing a plan of this size. They'll be hiring staff, setting up an office at the Treasury Department. And they want to do that expeditiously, but in a way that protects the taxpayer money and implements the plan as effectively as possible.

Q Scott, just to be clear, there won't be any new policy initiatives or programs announced in tomorrow's speech, is that right?

MR. STANZEL: I don't expect so. He'll be talking about the economy as a whole and the plan that was passed last week.

Q And just as follow -- on the judges. Does the White House have statistics on how many nominees the President has proposed, say, over his term, like, he's nominated, let's say, X number of judges to the appeals bench and X number have been confirmed? Can you get that kind of information for us? Or maybe you have it there in your BlackBerry.

MR. STANZEL: We can work to get that for you. I don't have the final tally.

Q If you have it for appeals --

MR. STANZEL: But we can get that for you. We'll just add an addendum to the gaggle.**

Q Thank you.

MR. STANZEL: Yes, that's fine.

Anything else?

Q Scott, you don't anticipate the President making any economic remarks anywhere today?

MR. STANZEL: No, I said -- I gave you the schedule as it stands now. And we'll let you know if there are any updates.

Q Well, the Dow is down more than 500 points right now. Doesn't -- wouldn't the President be likely to say something?

MR. STANZEL: As you know, we from the podium or from the floor of this garage where we happen to be talking right now -- (laughter) -- try not to discuss market movements. But obviously the Economic Stabilization Plan* that was put into last week was done so to deal with some very specific issues in our economy. And that is something that the administration will continue to monitor.

Q On the judicial -- back to the judicial thing real quick. The Democrats say that there were -- by contrast, there were 84 vacancies at the end of the Clinton administration, compared to the 34 that there are right now in Bush, and that the Democratic Congress actually confirmed more nominees in the last however -- whatever period of time than the Republican majority during -- throughout the Bush administration. I mean, what's the response to that from the White House -- a push-back on the notion that they're being -- that they're blocking things or whatever?

MR. STANZEL: Well, I'm not sure that a continuous tit-for-tat on judicial nominations and delaying people from serving on the bench to address the issues of law in our country serves the American people. I don't know why we should look backward and not look to the future in a way that we can approve judges who are well-qualified to serve on the bench in a timely fashion.

We think that judicial nominees should receive up or down votes. The President has talked about this throughout his administration. In fact, in I believe it was October of 2002, the President laid out a plan that, regardless of party who controls the White House, or regardless of party who controls the United States Senate, he put forward a plan to provide for a thoughtful and thorough and deliberate and predictable nomination process for federal judges. And that's what the President will be talking about today, is removing the partisan politics from this process.

Q But, Scott, that's really what the concern is, is to look at this from a completely bipartisan perspective. And when you guys throw out facts and figures about what's wrong with the system, you would include what had been wrong previously, not just dissing the Democratic Senate for what they're doing with Bush's nominations, right?

MR. STANZEL: Like I said, the President has talked about this throughout his entire time in office. And so the President obviously, can speak to his time in office. And that's what he has done, and that's what we do.

Q But it's a very explicit critique of the other party and how they've handled his nominations. So it's not --

MR. STANZEL: Which part is a specific critique?

Q By saying, you're not approving our judges, there are all these vacancies.

MR. STANZEL: Right. But this is an issue that hasn't been going on just for the last two years; this is an issue that's been going on for the last eight years and prior to that.

Q You're saying that now, which is great. It's just that when you -- typically, it's not -- the way you guys present it, as "we have a problem with the current Congress," not as this is a problem our country has had for some time.

MR. STANZEL: Well, I think you can go back and look at the President's remarks, dating back all the way to the early days of the administration, and his comments about the fact that partisan politics playing into the judicial nomination process has not been helpful. So I think you'll see that in his remarks today.

Q Are you going to give the remarks out in advance?

MR. STANZEL: I don't expect so, no. Oh, we are? Clarification from our able aide -- (laughter) -- Stuart Siciliano says, yes, we are.

MR. SICILIANO: Expect them shortly.

MR. STANZEL: Any other questions?

Q Expect what shortly?

Q Remarks.

Q If there's any -- going to be any change or update in whether he might speak on the economy today, can you give us a heads up?

Q -- we might hear from him when he gets back -- I mean, that's the body language I took from you.

MR. STANZEL: You guys are all great at reading body language.

Q Is that true?

MR. STANZEL: No, it's not. But I think you're all very adept at reading body language. But my body shifting and walking back and forth here was not meant to indicate anything whatsoever, other than I read out this President's schedule as it stands right now.

END 10:00 A.M. CDT

*Emergency Economic Stabilization Act

**The President has nominated individuals for 376 Article III judicial positions on the Supreme Court, the Courts of Appeals (Circuit Courts) and the District Courts. Of those, 324 were confirmed and 313 currently sit on the federal bench.