|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
December 26, 2003
Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Crawford, Texas
11:12 A.M. EST
MR. McCLELLAN: Good morning, everybody. I hope everybody had a good holiday break and I hope everybody looks forward to going down to Texas for a little time down there.
The President and Mrs. Bush had a very enjoyable family Christmas at Camp David. The President - Mrs. Bush gave the President a couple of shirts, a couple of ties and a book. The book is "The Devil in the White City," by Eric Larson. And the President gave Mrs. Bush a gold beaded necklace, some earrings and some dessert plates that she saw in Georgetown. And the President and Mrs. Bush very much look forward to going home and spending some time in Texas. And that's all I've got.
Q What's the agenda while they're down there, still no travel?
MR. McCLELLAN: There's nothing to update you on, on his schedule. They are spending their time in Texas and, obviously, if he makes any - decides to take any trips outside of the ranch property, we will keep you guys posted on that.
Q Has he spoken with anyone in Iran? And what does he make of the situation after the earthquake?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, a couple things. One, this is a terrible tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who were injured and with the families of those who were killed. And we are offering humanitarian assistance and we will be putting out a statement a little bit later, so we'll get that to you as soon as we have that.
Q -- going to be in the form of cash, air lifted supplies, or what, exactly?
MR. McCLELLAN: We'll be discussing with Iran - again, we'll have a further statement out here shortly.
Q He hasn't spoken to anyone there?
MR. McCLELLAN: No updates on phone calls at this point.
Q And what agency would that be through? What sort of funding?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'd have to double-check. Check with State Department on that.
Q Check with State on what?
MR. McCLELLAN: You need to check with State Department on that. He was asking what agency would that come through, humanitarian assistance.
Q How do we discuss things with Iran?
MR. McCLELLAN: Look, this is a terrible tragedy and we all come together behind the Iranian people at a time like this to assist those who have been injured and those families who have been impacted by this terrible tragedy.
Q Is there an intermediary? Do we go through the Red Cross or something like that?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll see what else I can find out on that, Mark. I don't know off the top of my head.
Q When is the statement going to come out?
MR. McCLELLAN: We'll get you paper.
Q From the White House today?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, we'll -
Q On the plane?
MR. McCLELLAN: As soon as we can get it to you.
Q Has the President spoken with Musharraf?
MR. McCLELLAN: No updates on world leader calls at this point. Obviously, we'll keep you updated on that. Just a short time ago he completed his briefings, his usual briefings he has in t he morning. And I think that, again, in that instance, it's a reminder that the war on terrorism continues. And President Musharraf has been a strong partner in our global war on terrorism and we are continuing to work with him on our global efforts.
Q Has he spoken with Veneman at all, today or yesterday?
MR. McCLELLAN: He has previously spoken with Secretary Veneman a couple of times -
Q Yesterday, today?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- he has continued to receive regular briefings and updates from senior staff on the case of BSE. Obviously, the Department of Agriculture is continuing to stay on top of it and keeping the public fully informed. They have another briefing going on probably as we are speaking now here on the plane.
Q You don't know whether he will swear off beef for the foreseeable future, do you?
MR. McCLELLAN: In fact, he's continued to eat beef. I think that Secretary Veneman and the health officials have provided the public assurances about the safety of our food supply, and assured the public about the extremely low risk that is involved in this matter.
Q Since the mad cow incident in Washington state that the President has continued to eat meat?
MR. McCLELLAN: That's right. That's right, he is.
Q Did he have any beef for Christmas dinner?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know specifically, but he has eaten beef in the last couple of days.
Q Scott, do you feel there has been enough French cooperation in the war on terror? I've been reading that there are differences between the way French investigators see the Air France incident and the way the U.S. sees it.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, a couple of things on that. One, the federal government, the United States government is continuing to work hard, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to make sure that we are doing everything we can to protect the American people and prevent any possible attacks from happening in the first place. So we continue to work closely with states, with state governments, local communities and the private sector as we are in this higher alert level.
And we also continue to work very closely with our international partners, and we continue to share information with our international partners. You mentioned one, France. You know, we continue working to make sure we are doing everything we can to protect the American people, and we appreciate the assistance that is being provided by our international partners.
Q Should we expect the U.S. government to ask other overseas airlines to stop their flights in the event -
MR. McCLELLAN: One, I'm going to leave specific questions like that to the Department of Homeland Security, since they are the lead agency on these matters - and that's because of the ongoing nature of the threat and the continuing efforts that are underway. So I don't want to get into further discussion of any of those specific details. But I think that, again, that we are working to make sure that we are doing everything we can to protect the American people and prevent attacks from happening in the first place.
Q Are they expecting any visitors at the ranch while he's there?
MR. McCLELLAN: We'll try to keep you posted. We don't necessarily always get into all the friends and families that visit there, but we'll try to keep you posted as we can.
Q Is Condi at the ranch?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, Steve Hadley is traveling with us, and he will be there.
Q He's the NSC rep today?
Q Scott, on mad cow, he's only spoken with Veneman once?
MR. McCLELLAN: A couple of times. He spoke to her I guess the first day, and then Wednesday, as well. And as I said, he's continued to receive briefings from senior staff and updates.
Q Does that include an assessment of the economic impact?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that Secretary Veneman addressed that just the other day, said it's kind of early to determine the economic impact. So that's a little bit premature to get into that.
Q But since the announcement, a number of foreign nations have barred American beef.
MR. McCLELLAN: Those are standard measures that are in place that we may have taken, as well. You know, again, I think that right now the immediate focus is on doing everything we can to learn all the facts about this case of BSE. Out of an abundance of caution, the Department of Agriculture recalled the meat that was produced, even though it was cuts that were unlikely to be infected or that would adversely impact public health.
Q As the former governor of a cattle state like Texas, does the President have special insight into this problem?
MR. McCLELLAN: What do you mean by "special insight"?
Q His knowledge of the beef industry, certainly.
MR. McCLELLAN: Certainly, he certainly has that knowledge, but the special insight is given by those who are in the position - the health experts and those who are responsible for overseeing the strong safeguards that we have in place to prevent the spread of something of this nature.
Q He also has cows, cattle on his ranch?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes.
Q Is it an especially close problem for him?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think his focus is on the public health aspect of this and making sure that - we should always be working to make sure that we're doing everything we can to protect the food supply, and that includes looking at whether or not there are any additional safeguards needed n addition to the strong safeguards we have in place. So his focus is on the public health side of this. There have been strong safeguards that have been put in place since the 1990s. There has been a solid compliance record, as the FDA has pointed out, in terms of the ban on feed. The FDA stated that there is 99 percent compliance record on the feed ban. And there are additional safeguards that were put in place in the 1990s to prevent the spread of the case of BSE.
Q Do you have even a ballpark figure of the size of his herd on the ranch - dozens, score?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't. I can see what I can find out.
Q Any indication the leak probe is gaining momentum, about to come to a head?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that those questions you need to direct to the career officials over at the Department of Justice who are overseeing the investigation. The President's view remains the same. No one wants to get to the bottom of this more than the President of the United States, and that' s why he's directed the White House to work cooperatively with the career officials at the Department of Justice as they move forward on this investigation. I think those are questions you have to ask the career officials over there.
Q Did anyone at the White House receive any signals it's close to completion?
MR. McCLELLAN: Those are questions you need to direct to the investigators.
Q New Year's Eve plans for the President and First Lady.
MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't talked to them about it. It's still a few days away - we can't give you too much this far in advance, we'll spread it out.
Q Do you know whether he is working on the State of the Union while here?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that process is underway, so I expect he will spend some time working on it.
Q I didn't see any twins. I saw a mother-in-law get on the plane.
MR. McCLELLAN: Mrs. Bush's mother is on the plane, that's the family that's on board. We don't discuss the daughters' plans.
Q Are they going to be at the ranch?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll try to keep you posted on what we can about who's at the ranch.
Q -- I noticed a cane, is that something that's been for a while? Is that an injury? Mrs. Bush is using a cane -
Q Mrs. Welch.
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know.
Q The rest of the day look?
MR. McCLELLAN: Hopefully clear skies like we see right now. (Laughter.)
Well, again, at this point for the day, what we expect is the statement on Iran. I don't have anything to update you on beyond that. We'll be around.
END 11:23 A.M. EST