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

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
December 2, 2008

Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Dana Perino
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Greensboro, North Carolina

10:34 A.M. EST

MS. PERINO: Very short flight. We're on our way to Greensboro, North Carolina. The President will participate in a roundtable discussion with children of prisoners and their mentors to talk about how their lives have changed after being matched through the President's Mentoring Children of Prisoners Initiative.

Just a couple of points of background for you. Children of prisoners are seven times more likely than their peers to enter the criminal justice system in their lifetimes. In the interest of these children and their communities, it was in the State of the Union in 2003 that the President established this Mentoring Children of Prisoners Initiative. The purpose was to work with hundreds of faith-based and community organizations to recruit and train mentors to provide guidance and support to some of our nation's most vulnerable children. We've exceeded our goal for this program. The President wanted to match 100,000 children. We've exceeded that goal by matching more than 110,800 children with mentors so far. And since 2003 the Department of Health and Human Services has awarded more than $175,000 -- I'm sorry, $175 million in grants to 320 organizations in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

On board today, we have Cynthia McFadden of Nightline. She's doing a piece on the faith-based initiative. She will have a little bit of time with the President today, and then a piece that will run -- she will have a piece that runs next week, probably next Monday.

And then I'll just take your questions. We have such a short flight.

Q Dana, India is pressing Pakistan to turn over 20 fugitives as a kind of -- a show of good faith after the Mumbai attacks. Are you aware of that, and does the White House have a position on that?

MS. PERINO: I saw reports about it, but I think what I'll do is just decline to comment and let Secretary Rice get to New Delhi. I think she'll be there tomorrow morning our time, maybe even late this evening our time. Let me let her try to work on that and see what she gets out of it so that I don't get in front of anything she's working on.

Q Dana, did the U.S. warn India of possible attacks about a month before they happened?

MS. PERINO: I'm not able to talk about any of our intelligence community -- any of their cooperation with any other country. It would not be appropriate for me to do so, so I have to decline to comment on that.

Q The automakers are getting ready to present their plans up on the Hill. Has your position -- has the White House position changed at all on this? Have you seen any summaries? Do you know what they're --

MS. PERINO: I don't know if we have seen the summaries or not. I know Secretaries Gutierrez and Bodman sent letters to Congress last week to give the administration's view on the taxpayer issue. We have said that we want to provide help for the auto industry. We thought that we had provided a bipartisan way forward to be able to do that. It is refreshing for us to see Democrats finally coming forward and accepting that companies need to prove that they are viable in order to get taxpayer dollars. But we'll have to see what these plans are. And we'll have to see what the Congress decides to do, as well. I think there's -- it's a little bit premature here on a Tuesday. We need to wait and see what the plans are, and then they have to testify Thursday and Friday. And I don't know if we know what the Hill will do yet.

Q So you're not -- but I'm saying, is there any wiggle room in the position right now?

MS. PERINO: I think we just need to see them come back and see if they have a viable plan and then we can move --

Q -- you guys were stuck on the $25 billion. That's your position right now, right?

MS. PERINO: I think $25 billion is quite generous, and not necessarily something that I would consider to be "stuck on" anything. But we would like -- but we are sticking to our guns that the companies have to prove that they are viable before the taxpayer dollars should be given to them. So I think we just need to see what they -- how they proceed.

The companies have continued to be okay. I realize that they say that they're teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. We've said that we wanted to support them, and we've provided what we think is a bipartisan way to do that.

Q Can you tell us anything more about Secretary Rice's visit, what she's going to do and who she's going to meet with in India?

MS. PERINO: I have to refer you to the State Department for that, because the last time I saw her was Sunday night before -- she was leaving for London right then, and the plans had not been finalized yet.

I know that she'll be meeting with the Prime Minister, Prime Minister Singh. I'm sure the Foreign Minister will be there. But beyond that, I don't know who else she is going to see. I think that she's only scheduled to go to New Delhi when she is in India. She will not be going to Mumbai.

Q Do you foresee her going to Pakistan at all?

MS. PERINO: I would not comment on that. I think that unless they want to change their travel plans or announce anything, I'll just leave it to them.

Q Dana, can you talk about the event yesterday, the event today, and I think there's going to be a lot of stuff coming up where the President -- is he intending to highlight some of the successes of his tenure? I mean, is there a concerted effort to do that? There seems to be now a lot of events looking at --

MS. PERINO: We have thought about it.

Q We've done the 2 million plus for the AIDS program, the 110,000 here --

MS. PERINO: Yesterday was World AIDS Day.

Q Yes, I realize there are other reasons. But I'm just saying, is there --

MS. PERINO: Yes, over time we've done different speeches since I think August, talking about the President's record on judicial nominees, and on keeping America safe, on the faith-based -- remember we did the faith-based conference. So, we have looked to opportunities for the President to be able to talk about some of his legacy items, some things that he will be remembered for. He talked about that a little bit yesterday. You saw the Charlie Gibson interview.

So, now is the right time for us to be able to identify some opportunities where the President can either give a speech, or do a roundtable like he's doing today. We don't expect the children, the mentoring of children to be front-page news, but we do want to highlight some of these programs that the President has conceived and announced, and then the goal was exceeded. And we think that it's important for people to realize that while the President of the United States on any given day works on a variety of issues that are pressing and front-page news regarding the economy or terrorist attacks, there are other programs like this one that are changing people's lives one at a time. That's one of the things the President wanted to do through the faith-based initiative.

So we'll talk about this one. He's giving a speech on the Middle East on Friday. So there's a lot of different opportunities, and you'll sort of see them between now and, I guess, 49 days from now.

Okay? All right.

END 10:40 A.M. EST

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