The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 12, 2003

Press Gaggle by Claire Buchan
Crawford Middle School
Crawford, Texas

12:25 P.M. CDT

MS. BUCHAN: Good afternoon, everybody. Let me start off by telling you a little bit about what the President did today and his day tomorrow and then I'll be happy to take your questions. The President began his day with his usual intelligence and national security briefings. And he has been out clearing brush for the better part of the morning. So that's what he's doing today.

Tomorrow he will be welcoming members of his economic team here for meetings and for lunch. They will also probably be available to you all, and we'll keep you posted on the details of that.

Q Will it be everybody?

MS. BUCHAN: I think probably a combination, but we may be able to get some of them back here to do individual interviews with you all as well.

Q Claire, can you tell us exactly who is coming?

MS. BUCHAN: Can we fix the sound?

Secretary Snow, Secretary Evans, Secretary Chao, Chief of Staff Card, Director Bolten, NEC Chairman Friedman, CEA Chairman Mankiw, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Harriet Miers, as well as other key staff.

Q When are they coming?

MS. BUCHAN: They'll come in tomorrow morning, have the meeting, have lunch, and then depart tomorrow, as well.

Q They all arrive tomorrow?


Q You said yesterday about -- agenda is to talk about ongoing initiatives. Can you talk any more about what the agenda is and whether they're looking to strategize on future -- possible future initiatives?

MS. BUCHAN: The President will meet with the economic team as part of his ongoing commitment to the economy and to helping create jobs for the American people who are looking for work. The effects of the President's tax cut proposal that was proposed earlier this year and just enacted into law are beginning to be felt; so they'll be reviewing the current state of the economy, talking about how the tax cuts are taking effect, what effect they are having. And they'll also be looking ahead to additional measures that need to be taken, like passing the energy bill, like tort reforms, restraining spending, which are all key elements of getting the economy going fast enough to create jobs.

Q Mainly about reinforcing his message that these initiatives are working, other initiatives not passed yet need to be passed, not necessarily talking about another round of tax cuts, or some other economic stimulus?

MS. BUCHAN: They'll be talking about the current state of the economy, as they often do, where it stands, what effects the proposal that has just been signed into law is beginning to have. There are signs of that -- that that's beginning to be felt by people. Paychecks are bigger, the child credit checks have recently gone out. There are signs that productivity is increasing, the most recent GDP numbers were positive.

So there are signs that the economy is picking up steam, but the President isn't satisfied. He believes that there's more to be done, and he has outlined a number of those initiatives for you previously. And they'll be talking about those, as well.

Q A couple of Democratic economic advisors and a couple of Nobel Prize winners had a phone conference call this morning talking about the state of the economy, I'm sure linked to what you guys are doing. One thing they were saying is that short-term you may get some effect from some of these efforts, but long-term the structural deficits that are being built in could be disastrous in terms of Social Security, Medicare, and the standing in the international community, as to how the American economy is seen. I wonder if you could respond to that?

MS. BUCHAN: Sure, a couple of points. Number one, in crafting the tax relief packages, the President has always had both the short-term and the long-term in mind. And that's been critical to him, is ensuring that we take steps that boost the economy now, that create jobs now, but that don't harm the economy in the future. So that has been a guidepost for the President.

With regard to the deficit -- you've heard the President say very clearly and often that the deficit is important, that we do need to restrain spending, that a goal is to return the economy to -- the deficit to balance, but that bigger priorities right now are getting people working, fighting the war on terrorism and winning the war. Those are high priorities and the President believes we must address those.

Mike. Oh, was that -- you were stretching. Okay.

Q What form are the meetings going to take? And will all the participants be at the ranch, or are some participating via teleconference?

MS. BUCHAN: They'll be at the ranch.

Q Everybody is going to be at the ranch. Is it one big session, all together, and then they come out with some sort of statement afterwards, or, no?

MS. BUCHAN: They will have a meeting, probably talk to you all, and then have lunch and continue discussions through lunch.

Q Out there or here? Out there at the ranch, or here?

MS. BUCHAN: The meetings? Yes.

Q The avail, the press avail.

MS. BUCHAN: Oh, I'm sorry if I confused you. Yes, avail at the ranch, but I think we are also going to work to bring some of the key participants here, to talk to you for individual interviews. I think there's some interest in that.

Q Also, Claire, one other thing. Will there be anybody outside government -- CEOs, other economic types?


Q Claire, if you could give administration reaction on two developments today. First is the Middle East bombings and then I believe another ambush, another deadly ambush against U.S. soldiers in Iraq today.

MS. BUCHAN: On the Middle East, we condemn, in strongest terms, today's terrorist attacks which claimed the lives of innocent Israeli civilians and injured many more. Our condolences go to the families of the victims. The Palestinian Authority must act now to dismantle terrorist networks that perpetuate such attacks, and to prevent future attacks.

While all parties have responsibilities in bringing peace to the Middle East, ending terror must be the highest priority, and all parties -- the Palestinians, the Israelis, and partners in the region -- must work immediately to end terror and to keep open the path for peace.

Q Can I follow on that before we get the reaction on the Iraqi ambush, too?


Q What confidence does the administration -- why is there a basis of confidence among the administration? I know you have confidence. Why is there a basis for it among the administration that the Palestinian Authority can and will dismantle the terror networks? All we've heard about is negotiations and cease-fires and truces. Dismantlement is an active step that requires confrontation. That's what's in the road map. Why is there any basis for confidence on your part, on the administration's part, that that's going to happen?

MS. BUCHAN: Well, we are in an important moment, and progress is being made, progress has been made, since the Aqaba Summit. And we are encouraged that Prime Minister Abbas is committed to peace, and that is an important step. The parties are talking, and progress is being made. So it is a hopeful moment, and the parties have an opportunity to seize peace.

Q Doesn't something like today take the hope away when another act like this happens?

MS. BUCHAN: Well, clearly, dismantling terrorist networks is a very high priority, the highest priority, and all parties have a responsibility to address -- to address terror.

Q Are you encouraging the Israelis not to retaliate in order to not have another round of violence?

MS. BUCHAN: Israel has a right to defend itself, but, as always, bearing in mind the consequences of their actions with regard to the ongoing peace process.

Q Did the President talk to Mr. Abbas today, in response to this?

MS. BUCHAN: I've not been informed that he's had any phone calls with foreign leaders.

Q Will Dr. Rice travel to the region, soon?

MS. BUCHAN: The President has said that the Middle East is a high priority for him, and he has directed Secretary Powell and Dr. Rice to be involved. Dr. Rice has previously traveled to the region as the President's personal representative and, as events warrant, she could well do that in the future. I don't have anything to announce for you at this time.

Q On Iraq, the ambush in Iraq, any reaction to today's deadly ambush?

MS. BUCHAN: As we've said before, there are remnants of the former regime who wish to do harm to both the coalition and to the Iraqi people, and we'll continue to root them out.

Q There's a lot of chaos still happening in Liberia. Are we any closer today than we were yesterday to putting more American troops on the ground in Liberia?

MS. BUCHAN: Nothing has changed since yesterday, Scott. The President welcomes the developments in Liberia and we are working to ensure that humanitarian relief can flow to those who need it. We have a Marine expeditionary unit that is directly off the coast. And, as Secretary Powell said yesterday, at some point the U.S. Commander will go ashore, but no developments beyond that.

Q Do you know if that commander has actually gone ashore yet?

MS. BUCHAN: You should talk to DOD about the specifics on that.

Q Claire, can I follow up on Liberia, too. Should Taylor be turned over to the War Crimes Tribunal? He's in Nigeria, should Nigeria turn him over?

MS. BUCHAN: I'll see if we can get a follow-up to you on that, I don't know what our response is on that.

Q So then, essentially, now that Taylor is gone, he's done everything that Bush has asked for, and that's it for us, with regard to Taylor? I mean, is the administration doing anything else to make sure that he's held to account, whether it be the war crime tribunal, whether it be any sort of other sanction for his history in Sierra Leone and in Liberia and --

MS. BUCHAN: We believe that all parties responsible for the atrocities in Sierra Leone must be held accountable, and we have no control over the actions of the special court.

Q No control over what?

MS. BUCHAN: The actions of the special court.

Q But then, does that mean that you would endorse the special court going after him or not?

MS. BUCHAN: It means that we believe all parties have responsibilities for the atrocities.

Q What does the administration say to the people in Monrovia who are saying, okay, Charles Taylor did what the President asked, he's gone -- where is the United States, why aren't they here to help us?

MS. BUCHAN: We are working to ensure that humanitarian relief gets to those who need it. The people of Liberia have endured a great suffering and we will work with ECOWAS partners to help ensure that that humanitarian relief gets to the people.

Q What does the U.S. think of the new Liberian President Moses Blah?

MS. BUCHAN: Let me see if I can get you some sort of assessment, I don't have an assessment on that. (* see below)

Q Can you say what the mission is for those 2,000 Marines off the coast of Liberia? What are they doing there?

MS. BUCHAN: Well, they are off the coast of Liberia to provide support to West African peacekeepers. As you know, there is a group that has been authorized to go ashore to provide liaison assistance. And, as I said, Secretary Powell indicated that the U.S. Commander would also go ashore.

Q Does that mean that they are on standby for possible deployment ashore?

MS. BUCHAN: The President has said that we will work with ECOWAS and now with ECOMIL to help ensure that the humanitarian assistance can flow to those who need it, and that's where the situation stands, Mark.

Q Is the President's itinerary for this week in California set?


Q And it does not involve any appearances on behalf of any candidates in California?

MS. BUCHAN: No, no.

Q What was the question?

MS. BUCHAN: The question was, is the President's schedule in California going to change to reflect any appearances for candidates, and the answer is, no.

Q Does the President have any reaction to an action-figure doll being sold in his likeness for $39.95?

MS. BUCHAN: I don't know that he's aware of it. (Laughter.) Anything else? Roger.

Q Back to the economic meeting tomorrow. A year ago, we had the Waco summit, a rather big production. This year we have a much gentler, milder meeting. Anything to be drawn from that, at all? And should we be expecting any new ideas, proposals, tomorrow?

MS. BUCHAN: Well, the President is very committed to the economy, to working to boost economic growth, to create jobs for every American who wants a job. He did propose some very aggressive and bold actions to address those issues earlier this year, which have just been enacted and are just beginning to really flow through to the economy. In response to your question about, you know, why one meeting last year, why a different form of meeting this year, I think that the President continues to meet in a variety of different formats and just focus on the economy in a variety of different ways.

Q Is anything new going to come out tomorrow?

MS. BUCHAN: I think I answered that for Scott.

Q The proposals that you described that the President wants --

MS. BUCHAN: I'm sorry, I can't hear you.

Q Of the proposals you described that the President wants enacted on the economy, the one that he's been talking about most, that seems to be a renewed emphasis on, are the re-employment accounts. That was proposed in the budget in January. Does the President want that enacted, that proposal enacted this fall?

MS. BUCHAN: The President does want it enacted. You've heard him address it a number of times. It has passed through one of the House committees, and it continues to be something that the President thinks is important. This is an initiative that would help give additional resources to individuals who have had a hard time finding work, give them an opportunity to have these personal re-employment accounts, which would make available $3,000 for purposes of child care, or re-training, or perhaps, moving expenses.

And then, in the event that they find a job before that $3,000 is spent, then they have an opportunity to actually get the remainder of that money for their own personal use.

Q This fall, though?

MS. BUCHAN: The President believes it's an important initiative and he urges Congress to act on it.

Q Why doesn't the President wade in more on the California recall? He's also the leader of the party. He's waded in on a lot of congressional races, gubernatorial races as President. Is he afraid to get involved in this issue?

MS. BUCHAN: The President thinks that the people of California will decide what's best for them in this instance, and that's where it stands.

Q Is the President giving in to objections by North Korea by not sending John Bolton to those North Korean talks? I read on the wire today that Richard Armitage said that Bolton would not be going.

MS. BUCHAN: Well, no decision has made been as to who will lead the U.S. delegation. The President will appoint the head of the delegation shortly.

Q And you're saying that the President would not submit to North Korean objections with respect to naming the delegation?

MS. BUCHAN: Well, the President will be the person who will choose who will head the U.S. delegation. That decision hasn't been made, expected shortly.

Q -- about the head of the delegation, but about whether Bolton would be on the delegation at all, right?

MS. BUCHAN: The President will make those determinations.

Q I also noticed in his speech last night, the President took some pleasure in saying he sees more cows at his ranch than he does the press. Do you know how many cows he has?

MS. BUCHAN: I don't know how many cows he has. (Laughter.)

Q He should know that he could invite us all to the ranch and he can change that --

MS. BUCHAN: So you can count the cows. Okay, anything else? All right, thank you all.

END 12:45 P.M. CDT

* * * * *

Addendum to gaggle

President Blah is the constitutional successor to President Taylor. We expect him to remain in place temporarily until a Transitional Government can be agreed upon by all parties at the peace talks in Accra, Ghana. We will work with President Blah to maintain the cease-fire and ensure a smooth transition to the Transitional Government.

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