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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
December 17, 2003
Press Gaggle with
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina
8:27 A.M. EST
MR. McCLELLAN: The President had his usual briefings before we departed the White House. The President looks forward to going to North Carolina today to deliver remarks at the First Flight Centennial Celebration. This is an opportunity to commemorate this historic day -- it's the day when the Wright brothers' persistence and imagination led to an historic achievement. And I expect the President will touch on the fact that America continues to lead the world in aviation and space travel to this day.
When we get back, the President has some policy briefings and then some more receptions this evening, as well. And I just want to make one other update to the schedule, an announcement on an update to the schedule for tomorrow. The President -- as you all are aware, the President looks forward to visiting some of our brave troops at Walter Reed tomorrow. It's an opportunity for the President to once again thank those in our military who have served and sacrificed to make the world a safer place, and make America more secure. He will also give remarks to the medical personnel at Walter Reed and thank them for the outstanding job they do. And that has now been changed; because of the space limitations, it will be an expanded pool. So it will probably just be one camera, and then the correspondents will be able to attend it, just because of space limitations.
While the President is there, he will also have an MRI on his knees. He spoke with Dr. Tubb about going ahead and doing this while he was there and thought that this would be a good time to go ahead and do that. As you will remember, the --
Q Which knee?
MR. McCLELLAN: Both knees. If you'll recall, previously the President had a calf strain. But I think you all are aware that that had essentially healed, but separate and apart from that, his right knee, when he was running he felt occasional pain in his right knee. And if you remember, in his very first physical he had as President, the doctors talked about how he was showing wear and tear of someone his age who is very active. And so the President decided that while he's there he'll go ahead and have this MRI on his knees, both knees.
But you'll recall, he's talked recently about his right knee, that when he runs he feels some occasional pain in his right knee.
Q Would he have surgery on the knee before the election?
MR. McCLELLAN: Look, let's let the MRI take place and we'll try to keep you posted.
Q -- left knee?
MR. McCLELLAN: It's really the right knee that -- occasional pain when he runs. And so he hasn't been running like he used to. He's been doing more of the elliptical training and I guess water jogging, those types of activities.
Q -- leaving Blair House, he looked kind of like he was limping down the stairs. Did you notice that?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I didn't see him walking down the stairs, but I didn't notice anything while we were there.
Q Is he still running? And how quickly --
MR. McCLELLAN: He hasn't been running, because -- I mean, I think he's tried occasionally here and there, but more of doing the elliptical training.
Q But the knee troubled before when he stopped running was the left knee -- is that correct?
MR. McCLELLAN: The calf strain? No, the calf strain I think was the right knee, too. I believe it was the same leg -- sorry.
Q Is he frustrated he's not getting the same aerobic exercise that he's used to?
MR. McCLELLAN: He's still working out regularly. But he does enjoy running.
Q Will we get the result of the MRI tomorrow or when will they come?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, after the MRI, he and Dr. Tubb and the orthopaedic surgeon, they'll visit.
Q Will they recommend a treatment tomorrow based on those results?
MR. McCLELLAN: Let's let the MRI take place.
Q Does he know that he's now in his mid-50s? (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: I think, as you've seen from previous physicals, that he's showing the wear and tear of someone who's active and someone of his age. And it's important, as he has always said, or as he has said, particularly going back to the calf strain, that it's important for someone his age to listen to his body and to heed the signals which your body is telling you.
Q On today, are we in fact leaving before the re-enactment will take place?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. Well, first of all, I mean, he's got a full schedule to get back to in the White House, from briefings that he has as well as receptions. Second of all, I mean, it's really an opportunity for the people who are attending the event to enjoy that part of the ceremony and they'll be able to fully enjoy that, I think. He's got a full schedule back at the White House.
Any time the President travels somewhere, it can take away from certain activities. But really the reason is because of the schedule. He's got to get back to the White House.
Q Will Secretary Powell be one of the injured he visits tomorrow at Walter Reed?
MR. McCLELLAN: If he's still there, I suspect he will probably drop by. He had a good conversation with the Secretary yesterday. And if he's still there, I suspect he would. Later yesterday, in the afternoon.
Q Who's traveling with the President right now?
MR. McCLELLAN: Let's see, we have Secretary Mineta, Josh Deckard -- no, I'm kidding. Secretary Mineta, Secretary Norton, Secretary of the Navy, Administrator O'Keefe. Hang on, I've got -- okay. Here's my list.
I'm sorry, Secretary Norton must already be there. Secretary Mineta, Secretary James Roche, Secretary Gordon England, Administrator O'Keefe, and those are the notables.
Q What kind of aircraft did the President fly when he was a pilot?
MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, gosh. Now you're asking me to remember that.
Q If you get a chance to ask --
MR. McCLELLAN: I can get that for you. We can get that for you.
Q Did you guys take note of the comments from the Vatican official who was complaining about the treatment of Saddam Hussein?
MR. McCLELLAN: I saw the media reports like you did. But I think I would point out what we previously said. He is -- Saddam Hussein is being treated as a prisoner of war, and accorded all the protections of the Geneva Conventions.
Q He hasn't been designated yet, right?
MR. McCLELLAN: That's correct.
Q Any comment out of the White House on the FDA panel that recommended that the prescription for --
MR. McCLELLAN: I can't comment on the FDA. I've got a conflict -- no, I'm kidding.
Well, as required by law, that is still going through the review process by the FDA.
Q The vote was --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, no, understood. I saw the vote. The company petitioned to take it from prescription status to over-the-counter status, and so it's going through the FDA process, as required under the law. And that's the way it stands right now.
Q Can the President make any recommendation? I mean, would he make his point known to --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think it's a matter decided by the FDA under the law.
Q But if he had his druthers, he wouldn't have it, right?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I mean, I think you've heard the President talk about his views, and his views about the importance of promoting a culture of responsibility and promoting a culture of life in America. And, I think one thing that's always important to keep in mind that he has talked about previously is the health and safety of women.
END 8:36 A.M. EST
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