|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 21, 2004
Press Gaggle with Scott Mcclellan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Toledo, Ohio
9:12 A.M. EST
MR. McCLELLAN: All right, good morning. Let me run through the President's day. The President had his usual briefings before he departed. We are on our way to Toledo. Upon arrival, the Freedom Corps greeter's name is Bruce Vanisacker, who is -- he is an active volunteer with a nonprofit that teams professionals with students to encourage young people to explore opportunities in science, technology and engineering.
Then the President will go to Owens Community College where he will participate in a conversation on his high-growth job training initiative he outlined last night in the State of the Union, and the economy. The participants in that conversation will include a student, a former student, members of the faculty that are involved in the technology training program there at the community college, and then a representative from a local one-stop career center.
And a little bit more on this -- we're going to have a fact sheet here for you shortly on the President's plan that he outlined last night, called Jobs For the 21st Century. This plan includes more than $500 million in new funding for the initiatives the President outlined. Those initiatives include the partnerships between community colleges and employers in high-demand job sectors, which -- that's $250 million for that proposal -- $33 million for the expanded Pell grants for low-income students who participate and complete the rigorous advanced course work; and then $100 million to help striving readers, and $120 million to improve math education in our schools. And we'll get you more on that soon.
But today's focus will really be on talking about the importance of having an educated work force to meet the needs of our changing economy in the 21st century and to make sure that we're -- that the workers are trained for the skills they need to fill the high-growth jobs that are in areas such as health care and biotechnology that the President talked about last night in his remarks.
Following that, we depart Toledo and go to Phoenix, Arizona. The Freedom Corps greeter there will be Hilary Juel. She's an active volunteer with Make A Difference, a nonprofit that works to mobilize volunteers and place individuals in community service -- local community service organizations. Then we will go to Mesa Community College, and again the President will participate in a conversation on job training and the economy. This will include students from the community college, administrators from the community college, as well as another area community college, and then a representative from a technology association in Phoenix. And then we will overnight in Phoenix, Arizona.
A couple quick announcements: On Ask The White House at 11:00 a.m. is Karen Hughes. And Mrs. Bush, as you saw, traveled with us on Marine One. She is on her way to Orlando, Florida, where she will be at a middle school to talk about the striving readers initiative the President outlined last night, as well.
And with that --
Q Karen Hughes is at 11:00 a.m. today?
MR. McCLELLAN: At 11:00 a.m.
Q Scott, on the job training proposals, I know those help people find jobs. How does that help create jobs, which is what the economy really needs?
MR. McCLELLAN: There are a lot of high-growth jobs that are not being filled because of a need for more workers with a certain set of skills. And so that's what the President will talk about. There's some high-growth areas where the job demand is out-pacing the needs -- or out-pacing I guess the supply of skilled workers for those jobs.
Q That seems like not the most pressing problem when you talk about communities that are worried about not having jobs at all.
MR. McCLELLAN: He's also -- he's going to talk about his State of the Union, but I would point out what he talked about last night. Obviously, we are making great progress to build a more prosperous America. That was one of the key themes he talked about last night in the State of the Union address. We've had over 250,000 new jobs created in the last several months. The economy is growing and it's growing strong. It's moving in the right direction, but there is more to do.
I expect the President may well also point out the importance of acting -- to continue to build on the progress we're making by acting on his six-point plan that he has outlined, starting with making the tax cuts permanent. Because the policies -- specifically the tax cuts, in the case of the economy -- the policies that we are implementing are working. They're leading to a more secure America, more prosperous America, and a better and more compassionate America.
Q Scott, the $250 million that he talked about, does that go to community colleges both public and private, or is it just public?
MR. McCLELLAN: We're going to outline this -- we're going to have this information, the fact sheet for you. I also expect we're going to have someone at the file, a policy person, do a little bit more detailed briefing to get into some of those specifics that you're asking. But this is a new program that we are talking about.
Q The suggestion seemed to be, in the speech last night and in the fact sheet, that it was public colleges. But I was wondering if it might be private, as well.
MR. McCLELLAN: I can double-check that, but there's some 1,100 -- more than 1,100 community colleges nationwide that are playing an important role in helping to make sure that we have an educated work force for the 21st century. And that's why it's important that we continue to support the efforts of those community colleges.*
Q On a different subject -- you probably saw the reports this morning that Pakistan has restricted its scientists from leaving the country, pending an investigation that's underway. It has also interviewed a number of the scientists. Can you tell us whether any of these interviews, any of this action is at America's behest?
MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't received any updates on that beyond what we've discussed recently in some of the briefings. I can look into it, but I haven't received any -- I haven't received any specific updates beyond what I've already said when we've addressed that issue recently.
Q Could you back, and by the end of the day, let us know whether it's the position of the United States that the Pakistanis are acting, at least in part, at the request of the U.S. government?
MR. McCLELLAN: I would say, certainly, that Pakistan is a strong partner in our global war on terrorism, and we are working closely with them in the global war on terrorism. Obviously, they're taking some actions internally that they may feel are necessary, but --
Q The more specific question, though, is, are these specific actions at U.S. --
MR. McCLELLAN: That's what I said. I'll look more into it. I haven't received any updates beyond what we discussed recently.**
Q What does the President plan on doing tonight? It seems like he finishes relatively early. Do you think he'll just hang out and --
MR. McCLELLAN: I always try to keep you posted, and I can keep you posted on his schedule. I'll keep you posted later.
Q Scott, was the President disappointed at all with the Democratic reaction to his speech? Teddy Kennedy was shaking his head during the Iraq part. Several Democrats applauded when he said the Patriot Act is going to expire next year.
MR. McCLELLAN: One, I think you heard the President's remarks. He was focused on moving forward on the agenda that we are pursuing for the American people. That's where the President's focus is. We are at a historic period in our nation's history. And the President is continuing to forcefully advocate for the policies that we are implementing, because those policies are the right policies for America. They are working to make America more secure, to make America more prosperous and to make America better and more compassionate.
And it's important that we continue moving forward in the direction we are headed. That's where the President was. He wants to continue to move forward, not turn back. And that's why -- because of the actions that we are taking, America is a nation that is strong and confident, as the President outlined last night. And so his focus is on what we are doing on behalf of the American people. I think the Democrats can speak for themselves.
Q -- calling on professional athletes not to use steroids and set an example for children, that's not something that you normally sort of think a President uses the State of the Union for. Why did he think that was an important topic to hit upon last night?
MR. McCLELLAN: It is a problem that needs to be addressed, and addressed seriously. We're talking about something that sets a dangerous example for young people. And the President believes strongly that we all have a responsibility to confront an issue like performance-enhancing drugs in sports seriously. And it is important to the -- in terms of setting the right example for young people. It can have a very dangerous effect on our young people, and that's why it's an important priority.
Q Is it something he's been interested in a long time, or that he's been following --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, no, actually it is something that is -- well, one, it is a concern to many Americans. I think parents of students, particularly students in high school, are concerned about the influence of performance-enhancing drugs, such as steroids, in sports, and the terrible consequences it can have on young people.
Q Scott, the President talked about weapons of mass destruction-related programs. Before the war, I recall he said something about there were -- Saddam possessed the most lethal weapons known to man. He spoke of weapons. Do you see a difference between talking about weapons specifically, or weapons-related programs. Are we changing the way we're describing the WMDs?
MR. McCLELLAN: Last night, what the President was pointing out is that the world is safer and better because Saddam Hussein and his regime have been removed from power. America is more secure because Saddam Hussein's regime is gone. And the President specifically talked about -- referred to Dr. Kay's Interim Report, which showed Saddam Hussein's regime was in material breach of Security Council Resolution 1441. And if you'll recall, that was a resolution passed unanimously by the Security Council and it called for serious consequences. And serious consequences followed because Saddam Hussein continued to defy the international community. Saddam Hussein was a dangerous man and the world is better off and safer with him removed from power.
Q So you still believe they'll find actual weapons, not just related programs?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. Again, where we are now is focused on helping the Iraqi people realize a free and peaceful and democratic future, and working with the Governing Council and other Iraqi leaders to transfer sovereignty as quickly as possible.
Q Is there any reason not to look on last night's speech and today's travel as the beginning of the reelection campaign?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, look, I think you all are going to -- you all recognize, like everyone else, that we're in an election year. But there's a Democratic primary going on right now. The President's focus is on the big challenges that face this country. He, regardless of whether or not you're in an election year, he remains the President of the United States. And this President is committed to continuing to move forward in the direction that we are pursuing to make this country more secure and make it more prosperous and make it more compassionate. And he is going to continue to focus on the big ideas and big challenges that face this country.
Q We hear repeatedly from the President politics will come in its own time. Is that time now here?
MR. McCLELLAN: Look, the President is going to remain focused on the priorities of the American people. That's what he will continue -- there's a Democratic primary going on; we all recognize that. There will be a time to have that debate later once the -- when the Democratic nominee has been selected. They're still going through the primary. But the President remains focused on the people's business and building upon the progress that we are making.
Q Can you talk about tomorrow, the message in Roswell?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, his remarks will focus on the war on terrorism. As you heard him talk about last night, we are a nation that is still at war. It's important to continue to remind the American people that there are dangers that continue to exist, and we must continue to stay on the offensive and take the fight to the enemy. And so tomorrow's speech will focus on the progress we are making in the war on terrorism and the ongoing efforts that we are taking to make the world a safer place.
Q Why Roswell for that message?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll try to get you more details about the specific site tomorrow. I didn't bring who the audience is or anything.
Q Is it related to the Mars initiative in any way?
MR. McCLELLAN: (Laughter.) Dee-dee-dee-dee, dee-dee-dee- dee. I think we're entering the Twilight Zone now.
Q "Some people would deal with terrorists by serving them with legal papers" -- who was he talking about?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think it was an important reminder that the war on terrorism, as he has always said, is not something that is going to be won overnight. It is something that is ongoing. There's many dangers that we face in this 21st century, and he talked about those last night, the most serious dangers, terrorists and outlaw regimes, and the need to confront those dangers before it's too late. And that was a contrast with some who might say that we can pursue this from just a law enforcement standpoint. We're pursuing it from a number of angles; law enforcement is one of them. Cracking down on terrorist financing is another. First and foremost, we are taking the fight to the enemy. That is the best way to win the war on terrorism and prevent an attack from happening in the first place.
Q Thank you.
MR. McCLELLAN: Thanks.
END 9:27 A.M. EST
* All of the more than 1,100 community colleges across our nation would be eligible under the President's proposal.
** As we have previously said, we are working closely with Pakistan on a number of fronts in the global war on terrorism. Pakistan is a strong partner in the war on terror.