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

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 12, 2003

Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En route Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia

MR. McCLELLAN: Good morning. Let me run through the day. The President had his usual briefing before departing the White House. He made two world leader calls on board Air Force One a short time ago. The President spoke with President Kirchner of Argentina. The President commended President Kirchner for the IMF agreement that was reached earlier this week. And President Kirchner thanked the President for his support and Secretary Snow's support.

Then the President talked -- spoke with Swedish Prime Minister Persson. The President expressed America's condolences to the Prime Minister at the loss of Foreign Minister Lindh. And the President also told the Prime Minister to let Foreign Minister Lindh's husband and children know that America's thoughts and prayers are with them. And right now he's visiting with senators and congressmen on board, Senator Miller, Senator Chambliss, Congressman Kingston and Congressman Burns.

At Fort Stewart -- gave you a little bit of a read out on that yesterday. Let me just go back through a little bit of that. The President will make remarks to approximately 20,000 troops and families.

Q Twenty thousand?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes; troops and families and others at Fort Stewart. The President will personally thank our troops in the 3rd Infantry Division for their service and sacrifice in both Afghanistan and Iraq and all that they are doing to help us win the war on terrorism. The President will also talk about how America is grateful for their service and sacrifice and how America is grateful for the men and women at the base who have provided critical support to our troops when they have been abroad, and how America is grateful to the sacrifices made by the families, as well.

Q Do you know if they -- the 3rd Infantry, they sustained the highest number of casualties, right, out of any unit? Do you know that?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know that for a fact. Let me double check that. Let me continue on. The President will talk about -- the focus of his remarks, beyond that, will be on the progress we are making in winning the war on terrorism. And let me give you -- the President will also present the 3rd Infantry Division with -- oh, let me give you a little bit on Fort Stewart. Fort Stewart is the largest military installation east of the Mississippi. It currently occupies 280,000 acres. It's home to the 3rd Infantry Division, as I mentioned. The 3rd Infantry Division has participated in virtually every military action from World War I, World War II, Korea, Grenada, Desert Storm, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. It was established in 1917, is known as the Rock of the Marne Division. The Rock of the Marne Division.

Q Rock of the Marne?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's what they're known as. It was involved in some of the toughest fighting in Operation Iraqi Freedom and helped lead our offensive into Baghdad. They returned home in September. The President will present the 3rd Infantry Division with the Presidential Unit Citation. It is awarded to units of the armed forces for extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy that sets it above and apart from other units participating in the same campaign.

Q I'm sorry, you said return, as in future tense, or past tense?

MR. McCLELLAN: Returned in September.

Q I don't think they're all back, are they?

MR. McCLELLAN: The division returned home from Iraq in September. That's what I have.

Q The citation --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm getting to that. The Presidential Unit Citation will be presented to -- on behalf of the 3rd Infantry, presented to Captain Vern Tubbs. If you'll recall, Captain Tubbs -- the President, in his remarks on Sunday night, mentioned a captain who had sent a letter to him. And this is the captain that the President referenced in his Sunday night address to the nation.

Following Fort Stewart we will go to Jackson, Mississippi, where the President will make remarks at a Barbour for Governor event. And then this evening the President will participate in the 10th anniversary celebration for the Power Center in Houston. The President's remarks will highlight his initiative to reach out to faith-based organizations that have a proven record of helping people in need. And then he will return to Camp David for the weekend. And remind me at the end and I'll have the week ahead.

Q Do you know if there's anyone else so far this cycle who has had a fundraiser by Cheney and the President? Had a fundraiser hosted by the Vice President and --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'll have to check that. I don't know. I'd have to check that with scheduling.

Q Do you have anything more to add on Israel's declaration that Arafat is to be expelled?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think our position and our views are very clear and they are unchanged.

Q Did you hear the report that the Defense Minister of Israel is calling for Arafat's assassination? Is there anything you guys plan to do to sort of put more pressure on Israel?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think we are always in close contact with the parties in the region, including Israeli officials. Secretary Powell is in close contact all the time with his counterpart; Dr. Rice is in close contact with her counterpart all the time. Our views on this matter are very well-known to the Israeli government as well.

Q Would you mind restating them?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we don't view that it would help matters and it would only serve to give him a broader stage. We --

Q -- did you say -- give him --

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, give Arafat. We continue to focus on the two-state vision that the President outlined, because, as the President has said, it's a hopeful vision, it is the way forward. And so we're focused on -- that's where our focus remains.

Q But it seems Israel is determined to go ahead. So what can the administration do at this point --

MR. McCLELLAN: I've seen some press reports where they talked about the expulsion. It didn't set any time line. I've seen those press reports, just like you have. And our views are very well-known.

Q Do you have any comment on the Defense Minister's statement about assassinating Arafat?

MR. McCLELLAN: I have not seen his comments. Our views are well-known.

Q Does the President plan to call Sharon to sort of express his view directly, make a more forceful statement?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'll update you if there are any world leader calls. I don't have any update to give you at this point.

Again, that's why I pointed out that Secretary Powell and Dr. Rice always are in close contact with their counterparts.

Q Can you give us any sense of the President's mind-set, whether he is more concerned about this, or whether he shows any additional concern about this latest turn in terms of wanting to either expel or assassinate Arafat? Or does he just consider this the normal cycle of behavior in the Middle East conflict?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, his views are that we need to get the parties back focused on moving forward on the road map we have outlined -- that is the way forward to peace -- and that the security forces -- our focus needs to be on cracking down on terrorism, the security forces need to be unified under the Palestinian Prime Minister so that the Palestinian Prime Minister has, or is empowered to go after terrorists and terrorist organizations.

Q Scott, what's the President's mood this morning?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President is looking forward to going to Fort Stewart. He's looking forward to thanking our troops, and then participating in the event later this evening in Houston. So he's in good spirits.

Q And in addition to those two calls, what is the President doing up there?

MR. McCLELLAN: He's visiting with senators and congressmen right now.

Q Scott, this is the second day in a row where he's coming sort of face to face with some of the folks who have really faced front-line duty. Yesterday he was at the hospital with people who have been seriously injured, obviously. And then today, this unit that suffered a lot of losses and had their tour of duty extended. Is it hard for him to kind of come face to face with the people who have borne the brunt of the decisions that he made?

MR. McCLELLAN: We are forever grateful to our brave troops and their families for the sacrifices that they are making on behalf of the American people, and making America more secure. We can never fully express our gratitude. The President is the one that has to hug the moms and dads and thank them for the sacrifices that their sons are making in a very important cause, the war on terrorism. Our nation is forever grateful for the service and sacrifice of the men and women in uniform.

Q Will he mention Johnny Cash?

MR. McCLELLAN: Stay tuned.

Week ahead: I read out Monday or gave Monday out yesterday, won't go back to that. Tuesday, nothing to announce at this time on the public schedule. Wednesday, he will make remarks at the rededication of the National Archives. Thursday, the President will make remarks at the Small Business Association's 50th Anniversary National Entrepreneurial Conference for Women in Business Awards Breakfast at the Washington Hilton. And he will --

Q I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you.

MR. McCLELLAN: The Small Business Association's 50th Anniversary National Entrepreneurial Conference for Women in Business Awards Breakfast. Then he will participate in a photo opportunity with the 2003 NBA Champions. Anybody know who they -- remember who it is? Remember where they are from? The San Antonio Spurs.

Then the President will travel to Camp David to welcome the King and Queen of Jordan. We made that announcement yesterday. Friday the President will participate in a press availability -- meetings and press availability with the King and Queen of Jordan. And he'll be the remainder of the weekend at Camp David.

Two quick announcements. The President -- and we're going to have statements on both these. The President is pleased to announce that he will host the President of Kenya for a state visit on October 6th. And the President will participate in the 58th United Nations General Assembly on September 23rd through 24th of this month. And we'll have statements out on both those. And I think that's --

Q Is he giving a speech?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, he'll make remarks. It's all -- this will be in the statement. He will make remarks on the first day of the General Assembly.

All right, thanks.

END 9:07 A.M. EDT

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