|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
December 3, 2003
Press Briefing by Scott McClellan
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
12:32 P.M. EST
MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon. I want to begin with one statement. Yesterday the President informed Robert L. Bartley of his decision to award Mr. Bartley the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civil honor. The citation will read as follows.
"Robert L. Bartley is one of the most influential journalists in American history. As a reporter, author, editorial page editor, and columnist, he helped shape the times in which we live. A champion of free markets, individual liberty, and the values necessary for a free society, his writings have been characterized by profound insights, passionate convictions, a commitment to democratic principles, and an unyielding optimism in America. The United States honors him for his contributions to American journalism and to the intellectual and political life of our nation."
And with that, I will be glad to go into questions.
Q Is he retiring?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry? He's, I believe, editor emeritus now with the Wall Street Journal.
Q Scott, how are these plans to cap in trade mercury emissions not a giveaway to the industry?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, you're presuming that decisions have been made. And decisions regarding what you bring up have not been made. The EPA is moving forward on a rule-making process. What the President is interested -- anytime you talk about the environment or any other issue -- is results. That's what -- the President is focused on results, and what is the best way to achieve those results.
This is an administration that is committed to improving our air quality, to improving our water quality, and to protecting our land, and to building upon the progress we have made over the past decades. And that's what we are doing. The President has put forward a proposal to Congress, called his Clear Skies initiative, to significantly reduce the amount of emissions from power plants by 70 percent. This would be the most aggressive reduction in power plant emissions ever if enacted by Congress.
We continue to urge Congress to enact -- to pass that. But this administration is not going to wait to take steps that improve our air quality. And that's why we are moving forward on -- and this is for the first time in history -- we are moving forward on an effort to implement tough, new rules that would cut mercury emissions by 70 percent from power plants.
And there are two options that are being explored. You mentioned one. One would be the command and control approach, and the other would be a market-based approach based on the successful acid rain program that imposes a mandatory cap on emissions. Now, there will be a public comment period to where we can hear views on -- from all sides on both these options and what the benefits would be, what the consequences would be.
So it's important, when you look at how you approach the environment, to always take into account what the benefits are going to be and what the consequences would be for the American people. And the President is most interested in the best approach that yields meaningful results to reduce emissions from power plants and improve our air quality.
Q But is the President not concerned that under a cap in trade policy, while you may get reductions in mercury emissions in certain markets, you will still have plumes of one of the most toxic substances known to man, and others?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, there hasn't been a decision that's been made. There's going to be an extensive public comment period available for people to comment on it. And what we want to do --
Q I understand that. But is he concerned that under a cap in trade policy, you'll still have mercury --
MR. McCLELLAN: If you look back the market-based approach, look back to the acid rain program. It's been highly successful.
Q But acid rain is different than mercury --
MR. McCLELLAN: And what our approach will do will significantly reduce emissions from power plants, reduce mercury emissions from power plants --
Q Yet you will still have markets --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- by 70 percent.
Q -- where there will be plumes. And I'm wondering if he's concerned about those markets?
MR. McCLELLAN: And I think you have to look at -- look at the approaches, and which one gets us to the point where we want to be in the best way and the fastest way possible.
Q But is he concerned that this cap in trade policy could help some people, but won't help others?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that we believe that a tough, mandatory cap, with trading, offers a promise for greater reductions in mercury emissions over a longer period, because of the improvements in technology and innovation that would follow. But at the same time, we want to explore both options.
Q Scott, does the President think Secretary Powell should meet with the architects of this informal Middle East peace plan?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think the decisions of who Secretary Powell meets with are made by the Secretary, and we support his decisions on who he meets with.
But when you talk about our efforts in the Middle East, we have a vision that the President put forward on June 24th, that outlines a two-state vision of a Palestinian state and an Israeli state living side by side in peace and security. And we remain focused on that vision. We remain actively engaged in working with the parties to move forward on the road map that the President outlined, and that was endorsed by the United Nations and other countries to realize that vision.
And we believe the best way forward toward realizing the President's June 24th vision is the road map. And so that's what we remain committed to. That's why Assistant Secretary of State Burns was in the region a few days ago, or over the last few days, visiting with the parties to get them focused on what is outlined in the road map. Because what ultimately has to happen is for the government of Israeli and the new Palestinian cabinet to come to an agreement in discussions on moving forward.
Q Do you see any merit in this informal plan, or do you just think it should be put aside?
MR. McCLELLAN: We believe that the vision the President outlined is the best way forward, and that the road map is the way to realize that vision. And we remain focused and actively engaged in moving forward on that road map. That's what we are doing. There are, obviously, a lot of different private entities or private efforts that people have from time to time on a variety of issues, and those can be useful at times.
But make no mistake about it, we remain focused, because that is the best way forward. And we are strongly working -- strongly committed to continuing to work toward the President's vision, based on the road map that was outlined.
Q So you would rather people just stopped talking about this and get back to the focus on the road map?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, what I said is that ultimately, for actual progress to be made, the parties in the region must continue to work to reach agreements on the way forward. And that's why we have been in the region, officials of the administration have been in the region meeting with the parties to get them focused on moving forward on the road map. That's the best path forward.
Q Scott, just to follow up on that. The fact that the Secretary of State is meeting with a group of people who are working on a plan that Ariel Sharon opposes is no small thing. Why is he doing that? Is he trying to send a message to Ariel Sharon about --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think you need to ask the Secretary -- ask the State Department about the meetings the Secretary of State has --
Q -- reports to the White House, he reports to the President.
MR. McCLELLAN: The Secretary of State meets with a lot of people on a lot issues, but I can assure you that this administration and the Secretary of State remain firmly committed to the vision the President outlined, and the road map is the best way forward toward achieving that vision. That's where our focus is. That's why we are continuing to work to move forward toward that vision. And that's why we're working with the parties. We remain actively engaged in discussions with them, and we will continue to do so.
Q Is this a message to Ariel Sharon?
MR. McCLELLAN: Is what a message?
Q The fact that he's meeting with a group of people who are working on a plan to --
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, in terms of specific meetings that the State Department may have, direct those questions to the Department of State. But the Secretary of State meets with people on a variety of issues all the time.
Q So does that mean that nobody from the White House, the NSC, is going to be a part of this meeting?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I wouldn't say that. There's obviously always an interagency involvement on issues of this nature.
Q Should we expect somebody from NSC --
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't get into discussions -- all the different staff level meetings that may or may not occur.
Q So we don't know when anybody --
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me finish. We are focused on the vision the President outlined. The President outlined a very clear vision, and we outlined a road map to achieve that vision. That road map is the best path forward. It calls for steps by all parties in the region to be undertaken and for them to meet certain steps over the course of that road map. And so that's where we are.
And to get back to moving forward on the road map, what needs to happen is that the new Palestinian cabinet needs to focus on cracking down on terrorism. There are responsibilities that all parties have, but the foundation for moving forward is cracking down on terrorism and cracking down on the violence in the region.
Q May I follow up on the mercury question? President Clinton -- the Clinton administration had an approach to controlling mercury admissions. Why change it?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, hold on a second. This would for the first time in history the federal government moving forward on implementing tough new rules.
Q Towards the end of the Clinton administration --
MR. McCLELLAN: You're saying -- there are some legal issues involved here, and some agreements reached and settlements that I think you're talking about. But we are working to move forward to significantly reduce mercury emissions from power plants. That's what we are doing.
Q But towards the end of the Clinton administration --
MR. McCLELLAN: And this is an effort for the first time in history --
Q -- before they had time to implement a rule, they suggested an approach which would have been this maximum allowable concentration, what you call the command-and-control.
MR. McCLELLAN: I said there are two options that are being considered and that will be under discussion.
Q So the other one --
MR. McCLELLAN: There hasn't been a decision that's been reached at this point.
Q Fair enough. Then does the President believe -- does the administration believe that mercury is different, more toxic than acid rain, should be treated differently?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President believes that it's important for, one, Congress to act on his Clear Skies initiative that would significantly reduce the emissions for mercury, as well as Sox and Nox, the other two emissions under that Clear Skies initiative, that would reduce emissions by 70 percent. It's important that we continue to build on the progress that we have made to improve our air quality. And that means taking steps to address power plant emissions. That's what we were doing, and doing it in a way that allows for continued innovation and investment in technology, that can help us achieve even more meaningful results. That's what he believes.
Q But mercury is different or not different from --
MR. McCLELLAN: We're moving forward -- we're moving forward to reduce mercury emissions significantly.
Q Okay. And then, finally, in developing these two proposals, did the administration reach out to members of environmental groups, scientists, industry representatives in doing that? And would you share with us --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we talk to a variety of people all the time on issues of this nature. There's going to be a public comment period that will be available during this rule-making process. And that's where it stands. So people will be able to express their views.
Q Has the President made up his mind on the steel tariffs?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, the President has not made a decision. It remains under review. Obviously, he will be making a decision in due course. He has effectively -- or, essentially, stated that in the past. I think that from this point foreword, what I'm going to do is not get into speculation about it. When we have more to share about any decision, then we will let you know at that time. So I'm going to, from here out, avoid getting into whether or not decisions are made, or what the status of an announcement may be.
Q Well, is that because a decision is imminent, Scott? Is that because --
Q Following -- yes, Wendell's question.
MR. McCLELLAN: Do you yield?
MR. McCLELLAN: Wendell.
Q Is that because the decision is imminent and you don't want to get caught in a situation of saying he's not made a decision when he actually has, and you're not ready to announce it yet?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I just think -- on Monday, there were questions about, is he going to make -- is there going to be an announcement today, and I said, no. I just think as we move forward, and we're getting closer to a decision being reached, it's best that I not get into speculation. There's a lot of speculation going on the media, and as the spokesman for the President, I make my comments based on the decisions that he makes, when he makes those decisions.
Q Can we assume, however, that any decision the President makes will have ways to -- for want of a better term -- cushion the blow to the steel industry?
MR. McCLELLAN: Now you're assuming certain things about a decision. And I'm not going to get into speculating about any decision, one way or the other -- and that would force me to get into some of the speculation that is going on.
Q Is the President taking into consideration the concerns of steel industry officials about removing the tariffs in advance of their three year expiration as he makes the decision?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you know under the decision that he made to impose the safeguards there is an ITC report that was done at the midway point to look at the impact of that decision on the steel industry. We have been listening to all parties involved -- we've been listening to producers, we've been listening to consumers, we've been listening to members of Congress, we've been listening to others -- about their views.
And the President will make a decision all in due course, and then we'll have more to say about it at that time.
Q Scott, back on the steel tariffs. Some people are speculating -- I don't want to use "speculating" -- that the reason why the President did not make any kind of statement on steel tariffs yesterday in "steel town" is because he is leaning to repeal or take back these tariffs.
MR. McCLELLAN: As you said, those people are speculating.
Q What do you say to those people?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President made the decision that he made in the first place to impose the safeguards because he thought it was the right decision for the country, it was the right decision for the American people. It was an opportunity to give the steel industry time to restructure and consolidate and to adjust to import competition. That's why the President made the decision that he made.
And you have the ITC report now, which has been under review, we've been looking at that, we've been listening to all the parties. And, again, the President will make a decision in due course.
Q So the fact that he did not say anything yesterday, people should not look into that as it relates to his decision?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President will make a decision based on what he believes is right for the American people.
Q Secondly, on Kenya real quick, these terrorist threats. The President said that he was going to cooperate with the Kenyan government to help thwart any kind of terrorist activity. What did he promise the Kenyan government, and is it in place now to help thwart these possible terrorist attacks there?
MR. McCLELLAN: We're working with a number of countries, including Kenya, to combat terrorism. There are some advisories that have been put out by the embassy, by embassies in Kenya, in Saudi Arabia, and you might want to direct specifics about those to the State Department.
Q But what did he promise on the state visit --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q What did he promise during this past state visit --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we put out some statements then, I believe, and we talked about the importance of working together to combat terrorism. And there are a lot of different ways you can work together to combat terrorism -- whether it's law enforcement, whether it's intelligence gathering, whether it's other action. And that's what we're doing with a lot of nations.
Q Scott, can you give us a readout on the conversation the President had with Thomas Usher yesterday?
MR. McCLELLAN: It was just a brief conversation. They visited briefly during the photo opportunity before the campaign luncheon. And it's essentially what I think I told the pool yesterday, that I think he expressed that -- Tom Usher expressed his views to the President; the President let him know that he had not made a decision. And so, again, there's another example of listening to the views of all parties.
Q I have two more questions. Why is the President meeting with King Abdullah tomorrow?
MR. McCLELLAN: For the reason I stated earlier. He's here on a private visit, but obviously, he has been a good friend, and the President looks forward to meeting with him to continue to talk about a number of important issues while he's in the United States.
Q Do you think you could be more specific --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we'll have more to say tomorrow, or the President and the King will have more to say tomorrow after the meeting, or before the meeting.
Q And then, finally, back on mercury. As you know, mercury causes birth defects, and many pregnant women don't eat fish because of mercury. And the headlines today said that the Bush administration is going to roll back these emissions.
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know that I'd always pay attention to the headlines.
Q Okay. Are those categorically wrong?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q Is the Bush administration --
MR. McCLELLAN: We're rolling forward on improving air quality. That's what we're doing. We're rolling forward to significantly reduce mercury emissions. And that's why I pointed out that -- the way we look at it, that a tough mandatory cap with trading offers promise for greater reductions in mercury emissions over a longer period because of the improvements in technology and innovation that would come along with that. But we are continuing to explore both options. But the bottom line is, we are moving forward to significantly reduce mercury emissions from power plants.
Q And can you just explain that for us --
MR. McCLELLAN: But you have to keep in mind, when you're looking at this, you have to keep in mind the impact on the American people and the consequences of the approach that you take, as well as the benefits. And that's why we're interested in what achieves the most meaningful results in the best way possible for the American people.
Q Scott, by calling the other option, command and control, that's -- you're dismissing it. That's a fiction --
MR. McCLELLAN: Look, there are times -- again, if you look at results, go back to some of our diesel rules -- go back to some of our diesel rules that we implemented to significantly reduce diesel emissions. There is an approach -- a command and control approach that we went forward on. There are other approaches, where on the Clear Skies initiative, where we are moving forward on a mandatory cap in trade effort. We're urging Congress to act on that effort. That is based on past success with the cap in trade market-based approach under the acid rain program. It's proven very successful and we've realized great benefits.
Q But then --
MR. McCLELLAN: But the bottom line is that we want to continue to build upon the progress we are making to improve our air quality, and do it in the best way for the American people.
Q But command and control is still alive --
MR. McCLELLAN: And so that's why we're looking at this. But you're assuming the decisions have been made. Decisions have not been made. But if you look back at what has been successful and what has worked similar to this, look back at the acid rain programs, I think you'll see some very meaningful results there.
Q Scott, back on steel, are you saying to us that the President will not consider politics when he makes this decision, and by implication, he did not consider politics when he made the decision in March of --
MR. McCLELLAN: The President made the decision based on what he felt was right for the American people. You have to look at the circumstances of where we were and what we were trying to do, and the President is strongly committed to free trade with a level playing field, that ensures that America's industries and workers can compete on a level playing field with others. And that's why he imposed the temporary safeguards in the first place, to give the domestic industry an opportunity to adjust to import competition and to compete on a more level playing field.
Q Scott, can I follow on that?
Q So we can assume that Karl Rove has not been a part of these conversations?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, when you talk about Karl Rove, he is a senior advisor to the President. I have not seen political before that title. He advises the President on a variety of issues, that's his role, as a senior advisor.
Q Scott, if we grant you the idea that the decision hasn't been made, can you some way describe to us all --
MR. McCLELLAN: If? (Laughter.)
Q We'll grant it to you. Can you, in some way, describe for us the amount of pressure that the President is getting from all sides on this steel decision?
MR. McCLELLAN: Like I said, we've been listening to all parties. We've been listening to the views of all parties. We welcome their views and their input.
Q Who is he listening to the most?
Q Is there some way of -- some sense you have of how much --
MR. McCLELLAN: The President is looking -- looking at the facts, looking at what would be in the best interest of the American people. That's what he's doing. And he's listening -- he's been listening to all views.
Q Scott, can I follow on that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes.
Q You said a minute ago that the President put these tariffs in place to allow the industry time to consolidate, to adjust to competition and to restructure. There are many analysts who believe that has happened during this period of time, and, in essence, mission accomplished. Has the President seen any evidence to suggest that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, and look at the ITC report. The ITC report pointed out some of the restructuring and consolidation that has taken place. I think you can talk to people in the steel industry, as well. But, again, I'm not going to get into speculating about what the decision may or may not be at this point.
Q Scott, can I follow on the Mideast?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes.
Q Does the President believe that these Geneva accords would, in any way, undercut the goals of the road map?
MR. McCLELLAN: We believe the road map is the best way forward. That's the way forward to achieving the President's vision he outlined on June 24th, of two states living side by side in peace and security. That's why we remain actively engaged in the region, working toward that vision, and working with the parties to move forward on the road map. It's always a difficult process, and there's always steps forward and steps back during this process. But we are going to remain fully engaged toward realizing the vision that the President outlined, because of the importance of that to the region.
Q Is there anything in the Geneva accords that would contradict that goal?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, the best way forward is the road map. That's what we believe. That's what we're working. That's where our focus is. And that's where it will remain.
Q Thank you. Memos from the Senate Judiciary Committee that were leaked to The Wall Street Journal show that Democrats opposed Miguel Estrada, and I quote, "because he is Latino," and Priscilla Owen, "because she is a woman from Texas." Is the White House going to call for an EEOC investigation into the unlawful racial and sexual discrimination against these nominees?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know about the specific reports, but the President appoints people who he believes is the best individual for that position. And he appoints people of -- people that have a conservative judicial view that will interpret the law, not make law, from the bench. And that's the President's views and Congress needs to act to vote -- or the Senate needs to allow up-or-down votes on all of his nominees, and that's what we're continuing to do, that's where our focus is. The Senate needs to fulfill its responsibility to allow all individuals that the President has nominated to judicial positions to receive an up-or-down vote.
There are also a number -- Congress will be coming back in town next week, there are a number of nominations, some hundred nominations that are pending out there, beyond just judicial nominees, that the Senate has yet to act on. And we would encourage the Senate, when they return, to move forward and act on those nominees. These are a number of important positions.
Q Can you fill us in a bit on what role the White House had in the decision to let Yaser Hamdi have a lawyer? Did you have any role in that? And what's your view on the change of heart in the Pentagon?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let me mention, I guess, a couple of things in regards to that -- and I think the Pentagon has previously talked about this, if you look back. Our position has been, and remains, that enemy combatants are not legally entitled to access to counsel. This has been a legal position that has been affirmed by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. One of the reasons consistently given for not providing access to counsel is America's national security need to gather intelligence to help us prevent future terrorist attacks. Obviously, the President's highest priority is preventing future attacks.
And so that's one of the reasons the decision to provide counsel, in this case, was based solely on the Department of Defense's conclusion that Hamdi had no further intelligence value, and that providing access to counsel would not compromise national security in any way. And so that's why that decision was made.
Q Any role in the White House in the making of that decision?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sure that there are discussions that are had with Counsel's Office. I don't know about any specifically. But the decision was based upon the Defense Department's conclusion.
Q Scott, a two-part. While Democrat Senators Kerry, Edwards, Clinton, and General Wesley Clark all commended the President for his 33-hour trip Thanksgiving with our troops in Iraq, one of your predecessors, named Joe Lockhart, was quoted on page one of The Washington Times as saying, "This is a President who has been unwillingly to provide his presence to the families who have suffered, but thinks nothing of flying to Baghdad to use the troops there as a prop."
Question, surely you must have a response to this incredible statement by your predecessor, don't you, Scott?
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me just say, Les, that the President was honored to go and pay a visit to our troops in Baghdad. He went there to show them this country fully supports them in their efforts and that we are grateful --
Q But what about Lockhart --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- and that we are grateful for their service and sacrifice. That's what I think.
Q But Lockhart -- wait a minute, I had a two-part --
MR. McCLELLAN: One a day.
Q Scott, quick question.
Q That's an evasion.
Q On Thanksgiving, India and Pakistan both announced cease-fire in Kashmir as far as the violence between the two countries over Kashmir. If President was informed, or if the President is playing any role in the cease-fire or future parties to solve their problems --
MR. McCLELLAN: We're very well aware of what's going on in the region between India and Pakistan, and we welcome the steps that are taken to reduce tensions in the region. It's important for the parties to continue working together to reduce those tensions. So we welcome efforts --
Q Has the President has spoken with anybody?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q If the President has spoken with anybody, any of the leaders --
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know. I don't have any updates on world leader calls beyond what we've done recently.
Q Scott, on the regulations for mercury emissions, has the administration taken into account the long-term health effects of option A, versus option B?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that we always look at all the -- the full impact of any decisions that are made. That's what the President expects to happen. You need to look at all the impact, the impact that it would have in a number of different areas.
Q You make reference to acid rain, which, as we know, corrodes metals, but it doesn't do long-term neurological damage or cause birth defects.
MR. McCLELLAN: And we are moving forward, for the first time in history, to implement tough, new rules that would significantly reduce mercury emissions. It's something that we believe is an important priority. It's something that was part of our Clear Skies initiative. Congress continues to need to act on the President's Clear Skies initiative. We're continuing to urge Congress to move forward on the proposal the President put forward, which will be the most aggressive reduction in power plant emissions ever, if passed by Congress.
Q And you're confident that those people who are in a non-compliant area will not suffer adverse --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think you have to go back and look at which approach is best to achieving the result that we all want to achieve, which is reduced emissions, better air quality, and improved public health. That's something we all share. And I think you have to look at it in that context. The President is interested in what is the best way to achieve those results. That's what we're doing.
Q What do the people do in those areas? Do they relocate to a --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, there's a public comment period that will be going on during this rule-making process, and people will have a lot of opportunity to weigh in on this. There hasn't been a decision that has been made. There are two options being looked at, and I outlined what those two options are.
Q Scott, on the Middle East, recently the President of Syria said in an interview with an American newspaper that his government is ready to revive the negotiations with Israel. Does the President believes that it is time for Syria to work with Israel to keep the peace, or they have to wait until the road map finally --
MR. McCLELLAN: We've expressed a lot of concerns about some of the actions that Syria has taken. I saw the interview, I think, that you're referring to. Obviously, I think those parties can talk amongst themselves about ways to move forward. But we continue to emphasize that Syria needs to reverse course in a number of areas.
Go ahead. Sara, go ahead.
Q Thank you. Scott, another cleric in Iraq is calling for popular elections to choose a new government, rather than the U.S. plan of having a constitutional legislation chosen by caucuses. Will the President change the U.S. plan in light of this opposition?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the coalition and the Governing Council agreed upon a framework on November 15th. It included principles and a timetable for achieving a sovereign and democratic Iraq. The coalition is now working with the Governing Council on implementation of that agreement, where the coalition will assist them as they move forward.
And that process calls for an early restoration of Iraq's sovereignty, for free and fair elections for the drafters of Iraq's permanent constitution and for a government elected under that constitution as soon as it has been ratified. So that's the plan that was agreed to, and that's the approach that the Governing Council is moving forward on. They have already appointed some committees to move forward on implementing that approach. Our goals remain the same: achieving a free, democratic, stable Iraq and early transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi people. And that's what we've been working to do, to transfer full authority to the Iraqi people as soon as possible.
Q Scott, since the President is spending so many days a week fundraising, what's he going to do with all of that money? And will he accept federal matching funds?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, now you're getting into a campaign discussion. You might want to talk to the campaign about specific campaign questions. We're focused on the people's -- on the people's priorities --
Q Well, we're in the White House and the President is leaving three days a week to fundraise. -- we're focused on the people's priorities.
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me finish, Helen. Obviously, we remain focused on the people's priorities, our nation's highest priorities, in particular, winning the war on terrorism and strengthening our economy. That's where the President's focus is. There is an election next year, and obviously the campaign is working to reach out to people and build support for the President's reelection efforts.
But there will be a time to discuss the campaign down the road. Now is not the time. There is a Democratic primary going on and we'll let them have their own debates. But, of course, the President is going to reach out and build support for his campaign. But he remains focused on our highest priorities right now.
Q I asked you if --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think those are questions you need to direct to the campaign in terms of what decisions may or may not be made.
Q Scott, may I follow on the Middle East?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, go ahead.
Q Before I do, nobody's congratulated you on your wedding. Congratulations.
Q I'll congratulate you on your wedding.
MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, they have. They just were afraid to do it publicly. They were trying to --
Q I think Joe Lockhart might congratulate you.
Q If you want to tell us about your wedding and your honeymoon, we would be happy to hear. (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: She's a wonderful woman and we had a great time.
Q Are we going to meet her?
MR. McCLELLAN: Thank you for your congratulations.
Q When are we going to meet her?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q When are we going to meet her?
MR. McCLELLAN: Some of you already have. Some of you I may not want to. (Laughter.) Not you, Les.
Q Thank you very much. (Laughter.)
Q What message is the White House sending to Israel by cutting the loan guarantees? And will Israel have to stop the security fence and stop expanding settlements in order to get those loans?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes -- I mean, I think the President's views are very well known. He spoke most recently, I think, about that at Whitehall Palace in London, in terms of the steps Israel needs to take to help get things moving toward the President's vision that he outlined. And our views remain the same. We've expressed those concerns to Israel.
Q Thank you.
MR. McCLELLAN: Thank you.
END 1:06 P.M. EST