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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Dan Bartlett
Dan Bartlett
White House Communications Director

September 21, 2004

Dan Bartlett

Great to be here today. I know there are a lot of questions so let's go right to the questions.

Susan, from Woodstock, Illinois writes:
Why was there no comment made on yesterday's beheading of Eugene Armstrong in Iraq by President Bush? He hasn't even acknowledged it.

Dan Bartlett
I'm glad you brought that up. President Bush just finished a news conference with new Prime Minister of Iraq, where he offered his condolences and assured the families of the remaining hostages that we are doing everything possible to find their loved ones.

Marilee, from Denver, CO writes:
What is Mr. Bush's plan for success in Iraq? Stay the course doesn't seem to be working. Does he want to engage the world community, i.e. the UN? How can he do that when he and the Mr. Cheney totally dissed them prior to the invasion and at the RNC in NY early this month?

Dan Bartlett
Marilee, President Bush's plan for success in Iraq is the following: 1) support the new Iraqi government fight the terrorists by helping train their own forces; 2) call on the international community to continue it's help both financially or any other way (a message he delivered today at the UN); and 3) ensure that elections take place in January.

President Bush understands how difficult the fighting has been. The enemies of a free Iraq are doing everything they can to wreck the democratic process. The new leader of Iraq, Prime Minister Allawi, is confident in our strategy and strongly believes the silent majority of Iraqis want our help and want us to succeed. And we will.

I also take issue with your reference to Vice President Cheney. The President and Vice President Cheney take our responsibilities to build an international coalition seriously. And that's why more than 30 countries are participating today in Iraq. But he also points out that other countries should not have veto power over our national security decisions.

Stephen, from Colorado Springs, CO writes:
Dan, Why is it that the president or you will not declare that the documents (CYA Memos) are false and untrue? Certainly if the documents are fakes, then the information in them is false as well.

Let's hear you and Mr. Bush say they are false and untrue accusations and we can settle all this mess.

Dan Bartlett
We don't have the technical expertise to determine if they were fake or not. Remember, these supposedly came from the personal files of man who died more than 20 years ago. Thankfully, a lot of expert bloggers and other news organizations did get to the bottom this growing scandal.

Dave, from Ohio writes:
Mr. Bartlett, thank you for your service to our nation. I saw your appearance on Hannity and Colmes a couple of weeks ago. You said that the deficit is due to the revenues coming in under spending, and that's because of the recession. But the Office of Management and Budget says that the deficit is due to spending increases and tax cuts. You said that the deficit is going down. But the OMB says it is increasing. What gives?

Dan Bartlett
The deficit was caused by three things: lost revenue coming into the treasury due to the recession; funding increases to fight the war and protect the homeland; and tax relief to jumpstart our economy. The most recent OMB estimate for the deficit was reduced by more than 50 billion dollars due to sound fiscal policy and a strong economic recovery, fueled by the tax relief.

Dave, the President doesn't like the deficit. But when our country was attacked and fighting out of a recession, he believes our first priority is to respond. His budget plan for the next five years will cut the budget deficit in half and he will continue to pressure Congress to not overspend on nonessential priorities.

Jan, from Atlanta writes:
The forged "Rathergate" documents were easy to spot since whoever created them did not know how to make them "look right". Are you concerned that with all the knowledge that this affair put into the public domain (for example what fonts and typesetting features were or were not available in the early 1970s), the next set of forgeries used to attack and smear the President will be more sophisticated and will be more difficult to debunk?

Dan Bartlett
That's a possibility, but I still believe the truth always comes out.

Nathalie, from Washington, DC writes:
Will the President come clean about his missing years in the Texas, Alabama, New England Air National Guard?

Why can't he just release the missing records so we can all get on with our lives?

Dan Bartlett
I wish it were that easy. The President has released ALL the official records the federal government can find. He received permission to spend time in Alabama for a job and met his obligations. Not sure what the reference to the New England Air National Guard is...he was never required to report there.

John, from Royal Oak, MI writes:
Why have there only been two white house press briefings in the last two months?

Dan Bartlett
White House press briefings happen when the President is in Washington. As you know, he's been traveling a lot lately. Nonetheless, Scott McClellan takes questions from the press every day while on the road.

George, from Kettering, Ohio writes:
1. I would like to understand why President Bush is unwilling to acknowledge the mounting problems we facing in Iraq?

2. Does the White House realize that the rosy picture it presents to American people is unrealistically over-optimistic?

Dan Bartlett
The President understands we are doing tough work in Iraq and that terrorists and insurgents are trying to literally blow up the progress we are making. We all want instant success. But the path from tyranny to democracy will be tough and take time. The President's optimism comes from the meetings he has with the new Iraqi government and his commanders on the ground. I know the pictures and the stories are unsettling, but a lot of things are going right in Iraq.

We are reaching a critical point. The enemy wants to break our will. They believe we will retreat if they keep hitting us. But the fact of the matter is that we are winning. And pulling out now would be disastrous for Iraq's security and our own.

Michael, from Miami Beach writes:
How has the administration's overall approach toward securing Iraq changed, given what appears to be a progressive increase in insurgent activity against American troops and the Iraqi government, as well as violence against American and other foreign civilians?

Dan Bartlett
The strategy is clear. Insurgencies are defeated by military force AND political change. That's why elections are so important. It's also important that Iraqis fight the enemy, not just Americans. (Just to clarify, Iraqi's should join with coalition forces to fight the enemies of a free Iraq. Sorry I didn't make that clear). We are ramping up our efforts to train Iraqi security forces and Prime Minister Allawi is determined to root them out in the few places they remain.

Danny, from Chicago writes:
Mr. Bartlett, Why did you not question the authenticity of those CBS memos when you met with John Roberts? Why did the White House subsequently release them?

Dan Bartlett
When a major news organization gives you documents they say come from the personal file of a former commander (who has been dead for more than 20 years) three hours before the interview was scheduled, it's hard to expect me to authenticate them. CBS had the obligation to authenticate them before they were used. They could have also given them to the White House much earlier so we had more time to verify them as well.

Also, we released them because we believe everyone should have the opportunity to see any record related to the President's military service. At the time, we assumed they were accurate.

Josef, from Tennessee writes:
Did you ever remove any documents from President Bush's National Gaurd files?

Dan Bartlett
Absolutely not. Mr. Burkett has made this ridiculous accusation for years.

Scott, from New York, NY writes:
Many of us support President Bush chiefly because of his commitment to rebuild and bring democracy to Iraq. What truth is there to Bob Novak's article suggesting that the president will pull out of Iraq at the earliest opportunity?

Dan Bartlett
There is no truth to that story. The President and his team are committed to getting the job done.

Dan Bartlett
Sorry I need to run. I enjoyed taking your questions.