For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 10, 2003
Press Briefing Index
TOPIC PAGE President's daily schedule 1-2 Homeland security 2-3; 5; 10; 11; 14 Iraq 3-5; 5-7; 8-9; 11
- cost of war
- support from other countries Economy 8; 15-16 9/11 anniversary 9-10; 13; 14 Libya 10 Cuba 10 Press conferences 12 India 13 Threat level 14 North Korea 13-14 South Korea 14
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
_____________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release September 10, 2003
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
12:49 P.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon, everybody. Earlier today, the President met with His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, you heard from the Dalai Lama outside. This was their second meeting to discuss Tibet. The President reiterated our strong commitment to support the preservation of Tibet's unique religious, cultural and linguistic identity, and the protection of the human rights of all Tibetans.
The President also declared his strong support for the Dalai Lama's commitment to the dialogue with China. The President said he would seek ways to encourage China to continue the dialogue on a substantive basis, and expressed his hope that the Chinese government would respond favorably.
The President and the Dalai Lama agreed on the importance of strong and constructive U.S.-China relations.
Later this afternoon -- well, the President is continuing to have lunch with the Prime Minister of Kuwait, they talked to you all earlier, so you have the comments from that meeting, I'll be glad to answer any questions about that.
Then this afternoon, the President looks forward to going to Quantico, Virginia, to tour the FBI laboratory and make remarks on homeland security. The President will give an update on the war on terrorism and homeland security, focusing on the actions we have taken and are taking to better protect the homeland. The President will continue talking about the progress we are making in the war on terrorism and the importance of staying on the offensive; taking the fight to the terrorists through strong and decisive action is how we defeat the terrorists and win the war on terrorism; progress is being made, but the war on terrorism continues.
The President will also focus on the historic and significant action we have taken over the last two years to better protect the American people at home. While we have made significant strides to better protect Americans, there is more to do, and the President will outline some action required in some other areas this afternoon.
And with that, I'll be glad to take your questions.
Q This afternoon's announcement at Quantico, particularly on the issue of administrative subpoenas that the President will voice support for, are you concerned that that particular issue that you might run into some of same opposition that you've been getting on the Patriot Act?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think what the President will do is continue to remind people that this is about preventing future attacks, this is about giving law enforcement the tools they need to investigate and to prosecute terrorism. This is our highest priority and these tools are already available for other crime fighting areas. We can already use some of these existing tools, and one you mentioned specifically, for health care fraud and child abuse cases. And I don't think anyone would want to roll back these provisions for those measures. So it's a disparity in the law that makes no sense. We should be able to use these same kind of tools that are used to fight other crimes to fight terrorism, which is such a high priority.
Q But it's part of the law that some people feel goes too far, and when you put it into the same aegis as the Patriot Act, some people on the right and some people on the far left are saying that the government's just got a little bit too much power.
MR. McCLELLAN: Why shouldn't we use the same tools that we have for drug trafficking and for fighting drug trafficking and for fighting mafia-related crimes and for fighting health care fraud, and use those same tools for fighting terrorism? That's the question I would put to them.
Q Scott, what role did the Justice Department play in assembling this package that the President is endorsing today?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that Congress, as I said, has introduced a number of these measures, the three that the President will specifically talk about have been introduced in legislation -- various pieces of legislation. And the President will be urging Congress to move forward quickly. Obviously, the Justice Department, as our chief law enforcement agency, plays a role in that effort.
Q Did the Justice Department consult with Congress? The Democrats complained already today that Ashcroft had promised to consult with Congress before a --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, like I said --
Q -- new legislative package is introduced and he didn't --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- well, there's not a legislative package introduced. There are measures that are already introduced in various pieces of legislation that members of Congress feel strongly about, and they share the President's commitment.
Q So is Ashcroft cut out of this? Was he involved in this?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, no. As I said the Justice Department is always looking at ways to better protect the American people. We're now at a two-year point in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks. Congress overwhelmingly passed, in a bipartisan fashion, some important tools that have been helping us to prevent future attacks, or prevent attacks and fight terrorism.
And over the course of the last two years, I think everybody always -- it's always important for people to look at other ways that we can find tools to help law enforcement combat terrorism at home.
Q This morning you mentioned going after doctors involved in crimes, or in terrorism, is that patient confidentiality issue? Or what are you getting at there?
MR. McCLELLAN: I was talking about the administrative subpoena. There are already more than 300 existing authorities where you can use administrative subpoenas. And I was giving an example to go after a doctor involved in wrongdoing, to seek the records of that doctor that was involved in wrongdoing, why shouldn't we be able to use that same tool to combat terrorism and catch terrorists.
Q Scott, many Americans who heard the President ask for $87 billion on Sunday also heard members of his administration previously dismiss the notion as very, very high -- that Iraq could cost between $100 billion and $200 billion -- dismiss the notion that it would require 100,000 American troops, claim that there would be between $50 billion and $100 billion worth of Iraqi oil revenue to help pay for this.
Two questions about this. First, how did the administration get it so flat wrong? And will anyone be held responsible for these misjudgments?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think, again, on the estimates on the oil revenue, for instance, I think that was outlined the other day in the briefing, that next year it's estimated to be about $12 billion, and then $20 billion the following year and $20 billion the year after that. And we'll continue to work to --
Q That's a long way from $50 billion to $100 billion that Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz claimed.
MR. McCLELLAN: But there was a situation where, after three decades of being under the rule of a brutal regime that was more interested in building palaces, that was more interested in pursuing weapons of mass destruction than helping the Iraqi people have a better life, where the infrastructure was worse than we anticipated going in. It was not an open society, so there were things we did not know about the infrastructure that we have now since learned, since we have liberated the Iraqi people.
And we are going to be working on all fronts to transfer responsibility as quickly as possible to the Iraqi people so that they can have a sovereign, free and democratic society. That's what we're doing, and we're going to be working to encourage broader international participation both in terms of military support, as well as financial assistance and reconstruction help. In fact, the President mentioned in his remarks a short time ago about Secretary Powell being involved in these efforts. He'll be going to the Donor's Conference in October to enlist broader financial assistance there, as well.
Q Let me just make sure I get this right, then. You're saying it was unknowable, that there was no on in the intelligence community in this country, or among our allies, who told us that after the three decades of well-advertised brutal dictatorship in Iraq, that the country was in bad shape, perhaps worse than our rosy predictions understood, and that the Iraqi people, themselves, might not, to a man and woman, welcome us with open arms, that there was no way of knowing that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, I think the Iraqi people yearn for freedom just like people all across the world. And the fact of the matter is, you highlighted some important successes that are getting lost in this debate -- we have liberated the Iraqi people, we have removed a brutal regime. I'm saying that the extent of the infrastructure problems that we are facing, we didn't realize some of that extent until after we got in there and saw how bad it was, saw that the electricity system and the power system was not in as good of shape as it should have been. That's what we're working to improve that infrastructure so you can get the Iraqi economy going and then the Iraqi people can continue to provide more resources to this effort as they assume more responsibility for their own country.
Q To go back to the speech this afternoon, is the President limiting his call for new tools to the three examples that you've cited? Or is he signaling support for some broader piece of legislation that would encompass these, and others that are also --
MR. McCLELLAN: He's specifically highlighting the three examples that I mentioned earlier in the day, and talking about the importance of this, where action is required in other areas so that we can do a better job of protecting the homeland.
There are, obviously -- I don't think he's going to go through everything that we support, but he'll highlight, kind of, three key things that we feel Congress should act on, and act on quickly.
Q But you would like to see, ultimately, more than just these three things?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think we'd have to discuss each individual piece that you're talking about there. But we always want to look at ways that we can do a better job of helping our law enforcement officials fight terrorism.
Q But I guess part of the question here is, is this, without putting that name on it, a move towards what people are calling a Patriot II?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I described it the way I did, that there are some various pieces of legislation that have been introduced after people have looked at what additional tools that might be available under existing authority already for other crime-fighting measures that law enforcement could use to help combat terrorism. And there are some steps that Congress can take to build upon our efforts to prevent future attacks from happening.
Q Scott, many members of Congress have made clear that in terms of the money that you're asking for, for the military, that's almost definitely going to pass. But a lot are saying that before they approve the $20 billion that you want for reconstruction, they want a detailed plan from this administration on what the reconstruction plan is in general, but also how they're going to --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think maybe I missed it, but I think Ambassador Bremer has laid out a detailed plan. The President talked about our plan the other night --
Q And Ambassador Bremer --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- the other night in his remarks. He laid out three -- he laid out the three key objectives: improving the security situation by going after terrorists -- we are doing that, we are on the offensive. We are going after those foreign terrorists in the country. We are going after the remnants of the regime with the full might of our military, and they're doing a great job in that effort. And we will continue to do that.
We're also working to encourage even broader international participation beyond the more than 30 countries that are already helping. There are a number of countries helping. There are a number of other countries that want to. We're working with those countries to enlist their help all towards our shared goal. We have one overriding shared goal: to help the Iraqi people realize a sovereign, free, and democratic nation as quickly as possible.
And that's the third key objective in our strategy, which is to accelerate and intensify our efforts to transfer responsibility to the Iraqi people. And in that effort, you have a number of important steps moving forward. The Governing Council is well on its way to -- it has put the ministers in place to oversee different areas of the country. First of all, the creation of the Governing Council -- a broad representative body of the Iraqi people -- was an important step.
And it has put a constitutional process -- begun to put a committee in place to begin looking at the constitutional process, so that we can move towards free elections as quickly as possible.
Q So is that a "no," you're not going to give them more than what the President laid out very broadly on Sunday and what Ambassador Bremer has broadly laid out?
MR. McCLELLAN: We're not going to give who more?
Q Congress -- the folks who are asking for that and saying they will potentially block that money until they get that plan.
MR. McCLELLAN: Until they get what? Oh, the plan. I'm sorry.
Well, that's why I said, we already have put forward a plan and talked about a plan. Ambassador Bremer has talked about it. He's laid it out. And one of the most important things he talked about recently was this seven-step process toward a sovereign and democratic Iraq.
Q One of the things they're talking is it's not just a plan, but a timetable -- some sort of timetable for how things will unfold, when they're likely to get foreign troops, when we're going to get foreign money, when we'll give sovereignty back to the Iraqis, all those sorts of things. To what extent is the administration able or willing to provide that kind of detail?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we're working on all those fronts. I think it's -- if you look at the proposed language in the resolution, one of the key things it calls for is the Governing Council to establish a timetable to present to the Security Council members. A timetable for constitutional -- for developing a constitution and having free elections. That will determine a lot about our efforts in Iraq, because the quicker they can assume responsibility for their country, the better everything will be.
Q Do you think that might need some -- the President indicated today that the French and Germans just wanted to fine tune the resolution. Is there a sense in the administration that that sort of plan will meet some of the concerns of the French and Germans?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there's -- first of all, I think that, generally speaking, there's been some positive discussions. Secretary Powell has had a number of discussions with members of the Security Council. And I think, generally speaking, they've been positive. We welcome -- you know the way the Security Council process works -- and we welcome the feedback of other countries.
There was a meeting of the Permanent Five members of the Security Council yesterday that they continued to talk about moving forward on the resolution. Secretary Powell will be going to Geneva this weekend to have further discussions and listen to the input of other countries. And we think it's a constructive process and we're trying to move forward quickly on it.
Q Just one other thing, if I may. There were several key Democrats yesterday who proposed a very specific thing, not a tax increase in general or an elimination of the tax cut in general, but specifically, either delaying or pulling back the tax cut for the top 1 percent of taxpayers.
MR. McCLELLAN: Sounds like a tax increase to me.
Q Is that completely off the table? You would never consider that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Look, the President's two highest priorities: winning the war on terrorism and strengthening our economy. And a leader acts decisively to meet those priorities. And that's exactly what we are doing. We are meeting both those priorities.
Our economy is in recovery, and the last thing we need to do at this point is to raise taxes, particularly you talked about the top bracket there. There are a lot of small business owners in that top bracket. These are the job creators, the economic backbone of our economy. And this is -- and so that would be a job-killer move, just as our economy is moving in the right direction, and we're working to create an environment for job creation.
Q What sort of things can be done to fine-tune this resolution that will ensure the support of France and Germany?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'd love to sit here and negotiate with you all, I'm sure that would be a fruitful discussion. But I'll let those discussions take place among the Security Council members. I think it's -- listening to some of the concerns they have.
First of all, we start off with, I think what is a shared goal, transferring responsibility to Iraqi people as quickly as possible. And that's important. So we start from that fundamental shared goal. And we will continue working with members of the Security Council to move forward on this resolution.
Q But are there areas -- absent -- even stepping away from the details you don't want to go into -- areas you would like to concentrate on specifically? You think that -- where you can bridge your differences and bring this together?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think that some of the key aspects of the resolution that -- the focus of the resolution. Obviously, the multinational force under a unified command is important and something that we've been discussing with countries; the Governing Council laying out a timetable and reporting to the Security Council, and the United States, as the lead of the multinational forces, reporting on our progress to the Security Council, as well.
So you have -- the U.N. has been playing a vital role under this resolution. They will continue to play a vital role.
Q Two questions, one on tomorrow's 9/11 anniversary. Mayor Bloomberg of New York has apparently asked Vice President Cheney not to attend tomorrow's ceremony because he said the security detail would be intrusive and --
MR. McCLELLAN: That's correct
Q -- and a problem. Any reaction to that?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, that's correct. And the Vice President will still be going to New York and participating in some activities there. I think you should talk to his office about the specifics of that, they've been working on those details. But this was at the request of the Mayor.
Q But he's not going to Ground Zero?
MR. McCLELLAN: That's right.
Q Is the Vice President's office is okay about that?
MR. McCLELLAN: He will still be going to New York to honor and pay tribute to those who lost their lives that day.
Q Where will he go then?
MR. McCLELLAN: Talk to his office about the specific details. They'll be getting that information out.
Q But you have no objection to the fact that --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the Vice President looks forward to going to New York tomorrow to represent the administration on the second anniversary of September 11th.
Q What's your understanding of why the Mayor doesn't want him?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q What's your --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think Ken mentioned some. There are some security issues and being -- the last thing we want to do is be disruptive of any remembrance ceremony that is occurring.
Q A quick follow up to Dick's question on the three things that you mentioned. Why do it in this piecemeal way? I mean, why are you choosing to roll it out in this way when you could do a more, sort of, omnibus approach?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, I said that there are some specific -- he's highlighting three specific areas where we can provide law enforcement with some vital tools to fight terrorism. We're always looking at ways to better protect the American people, and additional tools that law enforcement can use. These are some specific measures that he's highlighting, saying, Congress, act on these proposals. I'm saying there may be other areas that we support, as well, and those are issues that we'll work with Congress on as we move forward.
Q -- legislative package that --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Congress makes decision about, you know, when legislation is moved.
Q Quick question, please, Scott. First one, how does the United States feel about the fact that France is holding up the lifting of sanctions on Libya so that they also get compensation for their citizens and the French plane that was brought down?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that the vote is expected to take place on Friday, and they should move forward on that vote. We've always been strongly supportive of the families in this situation and it's important for the families that we move forward with --
Q The second question has to do with Cuba. Yesterday, the House of Representatives approved various amendments -- lifting some of the restrictions and embargoes, administrations had on Cuba for nearly 40 years. The Senate still has to vote on it. I understand the White House has threatened to veto it if it becomes law. Are you going to try to stop it in the Senate?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, obviously, we continue to work with Congress. The President's position on the embargo remains unchanged, he is strongly committed to it until there is freedom of elections and freedom of speech and freedom for political prisoners.
Q Scott, just to be clear, has the administration made the decision that it will pursue homeland security bills separately, or initiatives separately, that there will not be a Patriot II? I mean is that pretty much the position?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not aware of any one bill that's being presented. I'm aware of some legislation that is out there that we support. And that's what the President is making clear, Congress needs to act on it.
Q So you do anticipate that there'll be potentially riders attached to different legislation? That'll be the strategy of the administration?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I mentioned that -- what the President is talking about today, that there is legislation already introduced on some of those initiatives.
Q And there's been a lot of criticism -- I shouldn't say that -- there's been some criticism of the Attorney General's so-called Patriot II, if you will, tour that he's begun. Is that really what's behind the President going into the issue today, to try and give the Attorney General a little bit of juice on that?
MR. McCLELLAN: What's behind the President's actions is the American people and protecting the American people from future attacks. We want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to prevent something like September 11th from ever happening again, and the President will act on multiple fronts.
As I mentioned, the most important front is taking the fight to the terrorists. And that's exactly what we have been doing. And we are making great progress in that effort, going after the al Qaeda leadership -- two-thirds of it that has been killed or captured. And we are making great progress in Afghanistan. We have made significant progress in Iraq, and the President -- which is now central to winning the war on terrorism, a free a democratic Iraq will help bring about peace and stability in a very important part of the region, to winning the war on terrorism. But the President is always looking at ways, too, that we can better secure the homeland and make America safer. And that's what this is about.
Q Scott, what is the administration asking Kuwait ,in the way of contributing toward reconstruction efforts in Iraq?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I don't have any specifics to announce here. They had a very good visit. I think they talked about the importance of transferring responsibility to the Iraqi people as quickly as possible and their shared commitment to that.
Q Are you saying that they won't be asked to contribute anything?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't have anything specific to announce.
Q Scott, I have a two-part. Since illegal aliens in the United States are undeniably a federal matter, and which the Constitution requires the President to see to it that the law is enforced, will the federal government take any action against Governor Gray Davis for signing a bill to extend drivers licenses to illegal aliens, and thus aid felons?
MR. McCLELLAN: Sounds like another way to try to insert us into current matters in California.
Q It's a federal matter, illegal aliens are a federal matter, right?
MR. McCLELLAN: And the President is committed to enforcing our laws.
Q So he's going to do something about that?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know the specific matter you're talking about, Les.
Q Second, since one of the many angry and ugly charges currently being made against the President is that his raising so much money for his reelection from the big and wealthy shows that he cares for them more than for others. My question is, what are your plans, as his top spokesman, to try to end the practice at the last two presidential news conferences of scripting in advance those reporters to be recognized, who are all from media that are big and wealthy, and giving no chance to ask a question to all the rest of us. (Laughter and applause.)
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the President --
Q What are you going to do? Come on, Scott.
MR. McCLELLAN: The President took some 17 different questioners, I believe, last time.
Q The last two were all scripted. (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: He chose them from the audience, and it's a wide-ranging --
Q Oh, no, no, no, they were scripted, Scott, and you know that because you can't keep a straight face. (Laughter.)
Q Scott, it's my --
MR. McCLELLAN: It's not anybody's turn. It's Goyal's turn, I just called on Goyal. I just called on Goyal.
Q Scott, two questions, quickly. As far as presidential phone call to India's Prime Minister Vajpayee, who, in a very short period of time, one after another. And the last phone call to him was the day Israeli Prime Minister landed in India. So what was the message for these phone calls and --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the purpose of the phone call was related, as I read out to the WTO ministerial occurring in Cancun beginning today. That was the purpose of the call. Now, they generally discuss some other issues, as well, but the purpose was that. And the previous call was related to the tragic bombings.
Q And, second, when the Dalai Lama came here -- this is the second time, around the same time in the White House with President Bush. What really Dalai Lama was asking President, what he's asking him -- for freedom for the Tibetans or China is destroying Tibetan culture and religion?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the Dalai Lama took questions outside, so I'll let him speak for himself, in terms of what he was asking.
Q But what exactly was President told him about China and Tibet --
MR. McCLELLAN: It's what I read out at the beginning of this, in terms of strong support for a dialogue with China.
Q I've got two things. A group of family members of victims of September 11th have gotten together in a group called Families for Peaceful Tommorrows. And they, over the past year, have written to the President four times asking for a meeting. They want him, according to the letter, to stop using their family members killed on September 11th as a reason for taking action that will cause the deaths of other innocent family members. Why has the President not met with them?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know that you -- if you want to give me the specific names, I'll be glad to look into it, Russ. I don't know -- I don't know every piece of correspondence the President receives off the top of my head.
Q -- Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. I'll get you the name. The other is, your father, Barr McClellan, has written a book that's coming out next month. It's called "Blood, Money and Power: How LBJ Killed JFK." And I'm wondering if you agree with your father that President Johnson was behind the assassination of President Kennedy?
MR. McCLELLAN: Thank you for the opportunity, but I'm not going to have any comment on it. Thanks.
Q Scott, thank you. Is the President concerned about airport security, after a young man shipped himself from New York to Dallas in a box? And is he concerned about air cargo shipments and cargo containers coming into the United States?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's why we've taken a number of steps on the homeland security front to address those issues to better protect our cargo, to better protect our borders and kind of push those borders out so we know about what's coming in before it reaches our shores. So that's something the President is strongly committed to and appreciate the action the Department of Homeland Security has been taking.
Q I have one more question.
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes.
Q Excuse me, sorry. On the -- from 9/11, has the President been informed of any terrorist attacks planned for tomorrow? And does he feel the threat level should be --
MR. McCLELLAN: We addressed this last week, the Department of Homeland Security did, in terms of the current situation. Obviously, it's something we always keep a focus on, the level of chatter that's in the
system. We didn't have any specific information, otherwise, we would have been sharing that. But it's important to remind people and -- and what the Department of Homeland Security did, to remind our law enforcement officials, our state and local officials, to make sure that they are taking all the precautions to secure the areas, and make sure that they're taking protective measures and doing everything they can at the current threat level to protect the American people.
Q Scott, a few on Korea, please. How dangerous is the North Korean situation now? They keep ratcheting up their threats and their rhetoric. And is the U.S. concerned about anti-American attitudes in South Korea? Would the President consider reducing American forces in South Korea?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, on North Korea, I think we've made some significant progress in terms of the multilateral approach. Now we have five nations that are united in saying to the North Koreans, we don't want a nuclearized peninsula, you need to end in an irreversible and verifiable way your nuclear weapons program. So that's some important progress. And we had some discussions, and we're making progress on that front.
What was the second part of your question?
Q On anti-American attitudes in South Korea and possibly reducing U.S. troops in South Korea.
MR. McCLELLAN: And we have good relations with South Korea, in terms of the troops. Those are issues that you need to address to the Pentagon. They're the ones who make -- the Pentagon are the ones that make the decisions in terms of our troops.
Q Scott, I just want to ask you, last week the President sent the Treasury Secretary to China to talk to about the currency, and he was rebuffed. Some lawmakers on Capitol Hill want to take it a step further. There's three competing bills -- Representative English; Graham and Schumer have one; Lieberman's got another one. Is the President supportive of these efforts? Or does he think just talking is enough?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'd have to look at the specific bills.
Q One of them is a Graham issue --
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I'm not going to look at them up here from the podium. But I'll be glad to look at them.
Q Secondly, yesterday he decided to reappoint Bernanke and Ferguson. Could you tell us why he chose to do that?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think he's doing an outstanding job, and the President appoints people he believes are the best -- the people he believes are the best for that particular position. And that's why he intends to renominate the individual.
Q -- enough to replace the venerable Alan.
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, we've addressed that repeatedly.
Q Yesterday, Alabama voters overwhelmingly rejected a conservative Republican governor's plan to raise taxes. Does the President see a message in this in the upcoming election?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that, one, that's, again, going to an individual state issue. And we don't tend to get involved in state matters.
Q But would he --
MR. McCLELLAN: But the President is committed to lowering taxes and getting more money into people's pockets because that helps strengthen our economy. It helped get us out of the recession that he inherited and get the economy growing. And we're focusing on some additional steps that we need to take, as well, to continue that growth, from passing the energy legislation, to expanding trade, to reducing lawsuit abuse, to restraining spending, so there are a number -- and making health care more affordable -- that will help even strengthen our economy even more and create conditions for job creation.
Q But would he interpret the voters' rejection -- overwhelmingly, a two-to-one margin -- of tax increases as significant voter sentiment?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I'm sure there are plenty of people that can analyze what happened in Alabama and why voters voted the way they did. But I think that the American people strongly support the President for taking strong action to get our economy growing by passing tax relief and getting more money back into the economy, and back into people's pockets so that they can use that on a good or service.
Q Scott, on the WTO meeting in Cancun, mostly the countries, especially Europe, is blaming the agricultural subsidies as disasters -- and they say nothing is going to be accomplished until the U.S. change their position on that. What is your reaction to those --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, our reaction is that the President is committed to expanding trade, committed to expanding free trade, committed to opening markets for American products and American producers, and he's committed to working to reduce agricultural subsidies. That's been a priority; that was some of the discussions he had with some world leaders the other day.
Q Thank you.
MR. McCLELLAN: Thanks.
END 1:23 P.M. EDT