|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 5, 2003
Press Briefing by Scott McClellan
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
1:04 P.M. EST
MR. McCLELLAN: I have a few things I'd like to begin with. The President had a good and positive discussion with President Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This was the fourth time the two leaders have met. The first was back at the United Nations General Assembly in 2001. The President commended President Kabila for his strong leadership and his commitment to reconciliation, free elections, and addressing human rights abuses and corruption.
The President told President Kabila that we would continue to work with him to address the security problems in Eastern Congo, and the President reaffirmed our commitment to continue providing humanitarian assistance to relieve human suffering in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The two leaders also discussed the importance of combating HIV/AIDS, the global war on terrorism, and trade and development issues.
Following that, the President had a very good meeting with the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. That was just a short while ago in the Oval Office. The President expressed his strong support for the Prime Minister's leadership and his commitment to peace. The President made it very clear that the United States supports the Prime Minister's efforts, and the President reaffirmed our strong support for the peace process and democratic institutions that are in place in Sri Lanka.
The two leaders also discussed the importance of free trade. The President thanked the Prime Minister for the positive role Sri Lanka played in Cancun. Both leaders expressed their commitment to free trade and moving forward on the Doha talks.
Finally, a couple of other issues.
Q Did they --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll get to questions in a minute, Helen. Last night the President called to congratulate Governors-elect Barbour and Fletcher on their election victories. Both candidates ran strong campaigns based on a positive agenda and positive message for the people of their respective states. The President was very pleased to campaign on their behalf and he congratulates both of them on their victories.
This afternoon, the President looks forward to going to the Ronald Reagan Building and signing the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. The President is strongly committed to building a culture of life in America. Partial birth abortion is an abhorrent procedure, and the President believes it's an important step toward building a culture of life in America and making America a more welcoming society. The legislation enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support, and the President looks forward to signing it into law this afternoon.
And with that, I'll be glad to go into questions.
Q Did the President discuss with the Sri Lankan Prime Minister the disbanding of the parliament?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, they did discuss those issues, but the President expressed confidence in the Prime Minister's leadership and he reaffirmed our strong support for the democratic institutions that are in place. This is an internal matter for Sri Lanka. There are democratic institutions in place, and we have confidence in those democratic institutions to resolve these internal matters.
Q Has he been in touch with the President?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q Has he been in touch?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President? No.
Q Scott, there was apparently a letter written by the Iraqi Governing Council to the President, asking the President to transfer more authority to Iraqis for control over security. Can you confirm that the President received that letter? And is there an effort being made to respond to that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, that is exactly what we are doing. No, I am not sure that we have officially received the letter. We certainly haven't had a chance to review it. And if we have, the President has previously talked about the importance of accelerating our efforts on all fronts -- on the security front, as well as the democratic front and the reconstruction front. And that's exactly what we are doing. We are working to accelerate our efforts to involve more and more Iraqis in the security of their country.
The Iraqis are involved in a number of areas. Tens of thousands of Iraqis are already involved in their police forces, in the border patrol, in the protection of their infrastructure facilities, and involved in the civil defense forces, as well. And we will continue working to accelerate those efforts, as we will continue to work to accelerate our efforts to transfer more and more responsibility and authority to the Iraqi people, so that they can build their better future that is ahead of them.
Q Can you talk specifically to the idea now of building a paramilitary force, using some of the old forces, the old military structure that was there? Isn't there a risk there that you lose control over factional interests that might be involved?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's assuming that the story is accurate. And I think that if you talk to the Coalition Provisional Authority they will be glad to talk to you about those reports and about some of the reports --
Q Is it inaccurate --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- I think that they will express that to you, if you want to talk to the Coalition Provisional Authority. It's not my habit from this podium to talk about the specific steps that are being taken with regards to reconstruction and the Coalition Provisional Authority's efforts to work with the Iraqi people to build a better future for them.
Q Why would it be inaccurate to say that a paramilitary force is being trained --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we certainly are accelerating our efforts on the security front. And you heard from Ambassador Bremer and General Sanchez last weekend about the efforts that we are undertaking. I think that was an accurate reflection of what we are currently doing. But I think in terms of specifics, you ought to direct those questions to the coalition over in Iraq.
Q Just one last follow on that. Is there a reason why a paramilitary force is not wanted?
MR. McCLELLAN: As I said, I think you should direct those questions to the coalition --
Q I'm not asking whether it's happening --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- and they will be glad to discuss that with you, and what we are currently doing in terms of accelerating our efforts on the security front.
Q Scott, another question about the IGC. They appear to be standing in the way of Turkey deploying the 10,000 troops that the United States apparently wants very badly to be on the ground there to help relieve U.S. troops. So why is it that the administration can't seem to prevail upon the interim Iraqi leaders to get those troops in there?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that those discussions are still underway. We're continuing to talk to the Governing Council and talk with the Turkish officials, as well. So we'll let those discussions continue.
Q But what's the problem?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you've heard some of the views expressed by the different parties, and we're trying to work with each of the parties to resolve those issues and move forward.
Q But isn't it a problem for the administration when you have -- here you have Turkey, you're prepared to provide Muslim troops; yet, they're obviously sensitive to the notion of not just deploying troops because the Americans want them there, they want Iraqis to invite them. And then those Iraqis, over, largely, the Kurdish issue, say, no, we don't want them. I mean, doesn't that undermine the goal of restoring security on the ground?
MR. McCLELLAN: We appreciate the offer by the Turkish government to provide troops. We're continuing to talk with them about those issues. We're continuing to talk with the Governing Council about those issues. We'll let those discussions continue. That's where it stands --
Q But in the meantime --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- that's where it stands right now.
Q But in the meantime, U.S. troops are stretched pretty thin there. You don't have a lot of time to wait, do you?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I don't know that our military leaders have expressed it the way you just did. I think that they've said that we have the troops that we need, that we'll continue to involve more and more Iraqis in their security, as well. They're the second largest contributors to their own security, and in fact, a number of Iraqis have paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of their fellow citizens and in defense of their security.
We will continue to work with the other coalition forces that are there, and other countries that have already committed troops, and we'll continue talking with other countries, as well, about ways that they can contribute, too.
Q Scott, does the President hope that today's bill, abortion bill, gives momentum to the campaign to outlaw abortion?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think the President addressed that, I believe just last week, in his news conference. The President has always been strongly committed to building a culture of life in America. And we are still working to change our culture in America, so that we are a more welcoming society. The President believes that protecting innocent life reflects the compassion and humanity of America. And he strongly has supported banning partial birth abortion because of the brutal procedure that it is. And the President believes that this is an important step toward building a culture of life.
And while, at this point, there may not be enough support for certain measures, the President believes there are a number of ways that we can work together to reduce the number of abortions in America, as we work to build that culture of life in America. We can work to ban partial birth abortions as we -- as the Congress has done, in an overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion. We can work together to encourage adoption. We can work together to promote abstinence education. So there are a number of practical steps that we can take, working together, while we work to build a culture of life in America.
Q Short of an outright ban, are there other steps that the President would like to see, beyond this partial birth abortion ban? Are there other things that he would like to see the Congress enact in addition to this?
MR. McCLELLAN: Sure. There are other legislative steps that can be taken that we've expressed our support for in various statements of administration policy.
Q Scott, on another issue, this week Janice Rogers Brown's vote is supposed to go up on Capitol Hill. What, realistically, do you think is going to happen, in the midst of all this controversy about the conservative -- and many Democrats and those in the civil rights movement feeling that if she is on the bench that she will derail many civil rights issues?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, Judge Brown has received strong support in her own state of California for her leadership and for her record of interpreting the law, and not making the law from the bench. The President believes she's an exceptionally well-qualified nominee. And as with other candidates, we urge the Senate to move forward and give her and up or down vote. She has enjoyed broad support from the people of California because of her record on the bench.
Q What do you think realistically will happen this week?
MR. McCLELLAN: I try not to make too many predictions about what Congress may or may not do. But the President will continue urging action to be taken on his judicial nominees, including Judge Brown.
Q One more question real quick. We're less than a year away from the 2004 elections, and do you think that the President really has time to spare now not confronting some of these questions or accusations from Democratic -- from his Democratic opponents? Even though the field has not been whittled down to one --
MR. McCLELLAN: April, I think that the President has repeatedly said that there will be a time for the election. That time will come. We are not there yet. There is a Democratic primary going on; we recognize that. I think we have great faith in the American people to see through all the politics that plays out during a time period like this. The President will continue providing strong leadership and acting to make America safer and more secure, and to make America more prosperous. That's what he's doing. He's providing strong leadership to act on the important priorities for the American people, and that's exactly what he will continue to do. And that's where he'll keep his focus for now. At some point, there will be a Democratic nominee, and then there will be plenty of time to contrast our views on the issues.
Q A lot of the opponents of the act the President will sign today have pointed to the fact that it does not have an exclusion for the health of the mother. What has been the President's position on that issue?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you know the President's views on the issue. The President supports this legislation. The legislation does provide an exception if the life of the mother is in danger. So that exception is in the legislation. Congress worked hard to address these issues and make sure this legislation was constitutional, and the President looks forward to signing it into law.
Q On a slightly different matter, if I may. There is a strategy memo that was written by a Democratic aide on the Senate Intelligence Committee that leaked last night, that some Republicans are suggesting indicates an intent by the Democrats to politicize the investigation into what happened with September 11th and the use of intelligence. What is your reading of that?
MR. McCLELLAN: I saw the reports. I have not seen the memo. I understand that there have been comments made by senators regarding that memo. Our focus right now with regard to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is to work with them and assist them, to help them review the intelligence regarding Iraq. That's what we will continue to do. I certainly hope that people are not trying to use this issue, this important issue, for political gain.
Q Aside from general comments that you are willing to participate with them, I gather that some arrangement has now been worked out with the Senate Intelligence Committee to provide additional documents. Can you describe that for us?
MR. McCLELLAN: We have been continuing to talk with the Select Committee on Intelligence and work with them to help them in their efforts. We're working in a cooperative way. They're carrying out important work. There is a separation of powers issue here, where they do not have jurisdiction over the White House, but at the same time, we want to work with them and assist them in every way that we can. And that's exactly the kind of spirit that we're working in with the committee.
Q But haven't you now agreed to give them additional documents?
MR. McCLELLAN: We have continued to -- I think I'll let them describe and characterize what they have received. We have continued to work with them to address issues that they would like to have more information on. We want to be able to work with them and provide them information that can be helpful to them as they review the intelligence regarding Iraq.
Richard, do you have something?
Q Yes, on Medicare. Democrats up on the Hill are making noises about scuttling that legislation -- they can't come to an agreement, then they'd rather just go on without it. How are you reacting to that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think, one, we have made some important progress in terms of strengthening and modernizing Medicare for America's seniors. We're making important progress on the legislative front. This year is a real opportunity to finally get seniors the prescription drug coverage that they deserve and have waited on for far too long. We are continuing to work closely with leaders in Congress to get this legislation passed.
We have a real and historic opportunity to improve Medicare for America's seniors, and give them the same kind of benefits and choices that members of Congress now have. Medicare needs to be modernized. It is an important system for providing health care to America's seniors, but it was created in 1965 to address health care in that time period and we believe it needs to be modernized and strengthened. And if seniors want to keep their traditional Medicare plan, they will be able to. But we believe that by offering competition into the mix, that health plans will compete for seniors to participate in their plans. That will encourage plans to provide seniors with better benefits and better options to choose from, and it will make those options more affordable for America's seniors.
Q How do you see this playing out in the campaign? If the bill doesn't get passed --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we're hopeful that a bill will get passed. The President believes this is too important to pass up this historic opportunity we have to help America's seniors. This is an important priority for America's seniors, and Congress needs to act on it this year. And the President will continue urging them to act and will continue working with members of Congress to get it passed this year.
Q There's an operating theory now, apparently, of the FBI investigators that there could be an additional person that perhaps should have been the 20th hijacker on September 11th. Can you shed any light on that? And can you tell us what kind of break this would be, if true?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that we have previously expressed that we have been long aware that other members of al Qaeda attempted to enter the United States prior to September 11th. I think you might want to talk to the Justice Department, but I would certainly not take those reports as the definitive word on the issue.
Q So you think that --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think -- according to those reports, it was coming from the Justice Department. I think you might want to talk to the Justice Department. But, no, I do not view those reports as the definitive word on the subject about a 20th hijacker.
Q If I could follow up, has the President been following the case of Moussaoui --
MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't discussed it with him recently.
Q And any frustration on the part of the White House --
MR. McCLELLAN: Certainly, it's something that's receiving a lot of news coverage.
Q -- that it's been bogged down --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we continue to pursue that through our criminal justice system. The Justice Department continues to pursue that case, and they will continue to.
Q The European Union issued a scathing report about Israel, a condemnation about Israel, basically blaming it for most of the problems in the world, but did not issue a similar report about terrorism. Does the U.S. have a response? And will you be able to continue dealing with the EU?
MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't seen specifically what they issued. But the President is working to move forward on our efforts in the Middle East, with regards to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. We're continuing to focus on getting the parties back to the road map and moving forward on the two-state vision. The foundation for doing so is combating terrorism and a commitment by a new Palestinian prime minister and cabinet committed to fighting terrorism. And that's the foundation for moving forward.
We've seen that there have been some discussions between the parties. We believe that those can be a helpful way to lay the foundation for combating the issue of terrorism and improving the security situation so that we can move forward and realize a two-state vision.
Q How can you move forward with a road map when there's such glaring imbalance?
MR. McCLELLAN: What I said was that what needs to happen, the foundation for moving forward on the road map is a Palestinian prime minister and Palestinian cabinet that is committed to fighting terrorism.
Q If you issue a response, will you let us know, please?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll come back to you, I'll come back to you. I'm kind of working my way. Ari is no longer here, I jump around. (Laughter.) I'm coming to you, I'm coming to you.
Q A question on Syria. Is the President going to sign the Syrian legislation expected to pass the Senate sometime today or tomorrow?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. Obviously, we want to see the final version of that, but we have said that we would not object to that. We have a number of concerns with regards to Syria and we've expressed those concerns.
Q Okay. So he will be signing it, then?
MR. McCLELLAN: We've said that we would not object to that legislation, but we would still like to see the final version.
Q I have another question on the economy. There were a couple of indicators out today; factory orders were up one-half of 1 percent in September, and the second measure of service industry also rose. Secretary Snow told the Times of London last month that he would -- that he agreed with private estimates of the creation of as many as 200,000 jobs per month down the road.
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not sure that's exactly what he said. I think he's since addressed that issue. What the President's focus is on is strengthening our economy so that we create a more vibrant environment for job creation. There are a number of positive indications when it comes to our economy that it's moving in the right direction. The President is optimistic, but he's not satisfied. There is more that we need to do, and that's why the President has a six-point plan for strengthening our economy even more, and building upon our efforts to translate that into job creation. There are people that are still looking for work that cannot find a job, and that's why the President will continue acting to create a strong environment for job creation.
Q What about these indicators today, though?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there were some more positive indications today. There have been a number of positive indications. After-tax income is rising, housing is up. The GDP number was strong for this quarter, recognizing that in the next quarter most economists believe that that will still be at a sustainable economic growth level, but not quite as high. The economy is moving in the right direction, but there's more that we can do to build upon that and strengthen our economy even more.
Q The President said last week that the country is not ready for a total ban on abortion, but can you specify today what those other legislative steps that you referred to earlier are that you support on the road toward a ban on abortion?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, we have previously expressed that. I didn't bring out a list of all the varied pieces of legislation that are there. I'll be glad to get that to you.*
Q Can you tell me right now --
MR. McCLELLAN: I didn't bring a list of everything that was out there, but I'll be glad to get you that information.
Q Okay. Another question. Why is he signing the legislation at the Ronald Reagan Building today?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that was a location that was convenient, and the President looks forward to signing it there. There's not really any other reason than -- other than it will be a good venue for the number of people that we have at this event. I think Mrs. Bush is also using the East Room today, as well.
Q Scott, the European Union, this morning in Brussels, they adopted a measure that would put in place up to $4 billion in sanctions automatically if the Congress doesn't change the tax code for exports -- tax subsidies have been ruled illegal. But a lot of the key tax-writing lawmakers on the Hill say they're not going to get it done by the end of the year. And I'm just wondering, what is the President doing to prod them along, to hurry up the process. Is he making any phone calls? Does he plan to have them come to the White House? I assume he wants -- he's said many times that he wants them to act quickly, but I'm wondering what is he doing --
MR. McCLELLAN: We are continuing to work with Congress to address that issue and to avoid triggering sanctions that -- and to ensure that we are in compliance with the WTO decision.
Q Is he making any phone calls? Does he want to have them up here, or is he going to say --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we have House and Senate Committees that have taken the first steps to bring our tax laws into compliance. We have been strongly urging both bodies to act this year to pass legislation that complies with the World Trade Organization's ruling and avoids triggering sanctions by the European Union. So that's what we're doing, continuing to encourage them to act this year. We're working with them, and that's where our focus is.
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Les. I'll come to you next, Dana.
Q Two parts. President Reagan's son, Michael, says that his father is now bedridden with Alzheimer's. My question is, do you or the President know of anything in the history of American television that's more despicable than what CBS did to President and Mrs. Reagan?
MR. McCLELLAN: You're not asking me to become a TV critic, are you?
Q Well, I would just like to know where do you stand? What do you think about this?
MR. McCLELLAN: Look, I don't think it's the place of the White House to be a TV critic. I have not seen any of the video footage from it. I think that President Reagan was certainly a strong leader who shaped the world for the better. And I think that's where I leave it.
Q Does the President believe that if it's right for the Bush Defense Department to have to pay $595,000 to Linda Tripp for what the Clinton Defense Department did to her because of her providing very important evidence that helped impeach Mr. Clinton?
MR. McCLELLAN: Les, I think we are a forward-looking administration and that's what we will -- that's what we will continue to be.
Q Has the White House taken any move to restrict or put some information on its website out of reach of search engines like Google? And can you tell us whether the White House has -- makes any effort to go in and change documents that are already out there, for instance, press releases, statements on Iraq?
MR. McCLELLAN: I heard some of those reports, and I was somewhat puzzled by them. Every page on our website is searchable. All information regarding Iraq is searchable. We would encourage people to come to visit our website and look for that information. We want the website to continue to be fully accessible and open to all people who wish to visit it.
Q The stories on the -- that are making their way around the Internet are that there are some new protocols in place which makes it hard to get to reach some of the Iraq and September 11th information if you go through a search engine, not if you come straight in through the White House website. The implication, they say, is that you are making some material captive only to your own restrictions and you can go in and change, for instance, the word "major combat" on the headlines of the President's speech from March 1st -- I mean, May 1st.
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know who the individuals are that are making some of these allegations, but all subjects available -- are available on the White House website, including on Iraq. And they're completely accessible to all Internet users. And that's the way we want it to be. All this information is searchable, it's all available there on our website. And that's what it will -- it will continue to be.
Q It's not your policy to go back in and change the --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, do you have a specific instance you want me to look into to? I will be glad to. But that's the bottom line on our website; it's all there, it's all searchable, and please come visit it. It's WhiteHouse.gov.
Q I know that you said that you haven't seen the Rockefeller memo the Jim referred to, but I have and it clearly outlines a Democrat plan to exploit the information gathered by the committee to undermine the President's reelection chances. Under those circumstances, would the White House consider halting the transfer of documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee until a Senate ethics panel investigates the matter?
MR. McCLELLAN: We have been, and will continue to work cooperatively with the Senate Intelligence Committee. That is our position. We want to assist them and we want them to -- we want to be helpful in their efforts to review the intelligence relating to Iraq. That's exactly what we plan to continue doing.
Again, I just have not seen that specific memo. I've seen the news reports, but we would hope that people are not trying to politicize an issue of such importance.
Q Doesn't the implication of the memo cast a whole new light on the Niger controversy and all of the things that have ensued after the remarks of Joe Wilson?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think you've got my response on it.
Q With regard to the Senate Intelligence Committee, and given that they do not have any kind of jurisdiction over the White House, would you agree that any document whatsoever that might have any bearing on the events being investigated would be things that could be helpful for the Senate Intelligence Committee to see?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there's lots of ways to provide information to people, keep in mind. There are also always, in instances like this, national security concerns and concerns about highly classified
information. We don't want to do anything that would compromise our national security or harm our efforts that we are waging in the global war on terrorism. But at the same time, we want to be as helpful as possible and make sure that they have information that they need to do their job. And we will -- but we will continue working with them in a spirit of cooperation.
But at the same time, you have to keep that in mind, that we don't want -- this administration will not do anything that would compromise our national security or harm our efforts in the global war on terrorism.
Q Is there not a way to enable them to see the documents without necessarily providing hard copies of them?
MR. McCLELLAN: Those are discussions that we can have with the committee, itself.
Q Can you tell us anything about -- not the specifics, but about the nature of the documents that are in contention?
MR. McCLELLAN: We'll continue discussing those issues with the committee.
Paula, you had a question?
Q On Medicare, is the administration in support of the idea of higher premiums being paid by the higher-income Medicare recipient in exchange for those same recipients, as well as others, having health savings accounts?
MR. McCLELLAN: It's the same thing that I've said previously, that we're working closely with members of Congress on those issues. There are some remaining issues that are being discussed. I think that is one that is under consideration. And we'll continue working with them to resolve those issues and get this legislation passed this year.
Q There also appears to be movement toward agreement in the energy bill in the ethanol provision, that I understand Vice President Cheney yesterday made an offer. Does the White House have any comment on the ethanol --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President is a strong supporter of ethanol as an alternative fuel source, and we continue to work with members of Congress on the energy legislation, as well. Both these issues are two very high priorities on the domestic front for the President. The energy legislation will help improve our economic security, as well as reduce our independence on foreign sources of energy, which will improve our national security. And so it's important that Congress move forward to pass a comprehensive energy bill this year. We have an opportunity there, and it's important they move forward on the Medicare front.
Q Can you clarify one other thing? When you said a moment ago that the administration --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the President is getting ready to speak, so we've got to move quick.
Q Okay. If the administration is taking steps to build a culture of life, could you explain why the President supports the death penalty?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, because the President believes that it ultimately saves innocent lives. And that's why he supports it.
Q Scott, a federal judge in New York already raised questions about the constitutionality of the law the President is about to sign. What's your reaction, the fact that it may -- an injunction may, in fact, be issued against it?
MR. McCLELLAN: My reaction is that Congress worked to address those issues. We believe it is constitutional, and you can expect that we would vigorously defend this law in the courts.
Q Scott, are you familiar with Israel's 1967 attack on the USS Liberty?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, not really.
Q Well, what happened was they attacked it and 34 Americans were killed and more than 100 were wounded. Ever since that attack, the U.S. and Israel say it was a mistake. But Admiral Thomas Moore, who is the former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman held a press conference last week, and he held an investigation of it, and he found it was a deliberate attack. And there was an attorney there from the Navy inquiry who said, it was a deliberate attack, but Johnson's White House told them to change the story. Moore wants a congressional investigation because he says, there's never been a congressional investigation. For every ship attacked, every U.S. ship attacked, there's been a congressional investigation except for this one. Would the President support a congressional --
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know enough about this issue, Russell, to comment on it.
Q Haven't there been four investigations of this?
MR. McCLELLAN: Maybe direct those questions --
Q Three at the Navy Department and two in Israel. Isn't that true?
MR. McCLELLAN: You can direct those questions elsewhere.
Q Four million evangelical Christians who voted for Bob Dole in 1996 stayed home in the year 2000. What does the President plan to do to get them out to the polls next year?
MR. McCLELLAN: Look, John, there will be plenty of time to talk about the elections. The President is going to be reaching out to all Americans who support his compassionate-conservative agenda and who support the action that he has taken to make the world a better and safer place, and the action that he has taken to improve our economy at home and create jobs for America's families and workers. So there will be plenty of time to talk about our outreach efforts.
Q As he signs the bill today, does he believe he has handed those people a substantial victory?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President believes he has done the right thing for the American people. This is something that enjoys broad support throughout America. I think that Americans recognize, no matter where you stand on the issue of abortion, that there are a lot of ways that we can work together to reduce the number of abortions in America.
And this is a particularly abhorrent procedure, a brutal practice. And the President looks forward to signing this legislation into law and is pleased the Congress worked past it with overwhelming bipartisan support.
Q But does he feel as though he has thrown a substantial bone to that segment of --
MR. McCLELLAN: The President looks at it that this is something that is based on his moral convictions and that it's a part of making America a more welcoming and just society. It's part of making America a society that has respect for life at all stages, that defends the innocent, that defends the weak, that defends the life of the vulnerable.
Q Could I just ask one quick question? How much does his -- do his religious beliefs play into those moral convictions?
MR. McCLELLAN: These are long-hailed beliefs that the President has, and he has been a strong supporter of banning this procedure for a long time, and looks forward to signing it into law.
Q A question on Taiwan? Thank you. The Taiwanese leader, in an effort last night said, President Bush is a guardian angel for Taiwan. Does the President concur with that title, or does --
MR. McCLELLAN: I didn't hear the title that you said.
Q Guardian angel.
MR. McCLELLAN: Our position on the China-Taiwan issue remains the same, and we've made that position very well known.
END 1:38 P.M. EST
* The President strongly supports measures in Congress to build a culture of life in America. The President was pleased today to sign the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. He previously signed into law the Born Alive Infants Protection Act. We also support other measures before Congress, including the Child Custody Protection Act, the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act, and the Unborn Victims of Violence Act.