The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 19, 2004

Press Briefing by Scott McClellan
The James S. Brady Briefing Room

video screen capture

Press Briefing
video image
audio image listen

12:37 P.M. EST

MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon. Who wants the first question? No statement. Mark, you got your hand up first, I think.

Q Great, I won the race.

MR. McCLELLAN: Les, welcome back.

Q On Guantanamo, can you tell us about the decision to send British nationals back to the U.K.?

MR. McCLELLAN: You heard -- two things. One, the State Department is going to have a statement on that particular matter here shortly. You heard from Secretary Rumsfeld last week about our process on detainees. And I think that you will hear from the State Department that we have -- what we have been doing. We have been working with other governments to discuss the status of some of these detainees. We've already returned some detainees to their country or origin. And the State Department will talk about how this process is working and how we will move forward on it, specifically with the United Kingdom, one of our -- perhaps our closest ally in the war on terrorism.

I will remind you that these detainees who are at Guantanamo Bay are people who are a threat to our country. That's why they were detained there. They are a danger to America and our friends and allies. And those that will be returned to their country of origin -- well, we have been provided assurances from those countries that we are returning those detainees to that they will make sure that they do not pose any future threat to America or our friends and allies.

Q In general terms, Scott, can you tell us what separates these from the others? Are they less of a threat, or have we just gotten better at --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, as we said, we were going to look at each one on a case-by-case basis, and discuss those matters with those countries. And now we're ready to move forward, after the -- following discussions with the United Kingdom.

Q But do the other countries --

MR. McCLELLAN: But the State Department is going to have a statement here very shortly on this very matter.

Q Will there be other countries that receive similar repatriations?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think there are other discussions that we are having. I would point out to you that we have already previously have returned to Spain and Saudi Arabia some of the detainees.

Q Sources in this administration and in other countries have said that the International Atomic Energy Agency has found evidence of uranium enrichment and other nuclear activities in Iran, far beyond what Iran had declared. What does the administration know about what has been discovered, and is it proof to the President and to the administration that this process in which the Europeans took the lead in encouraging more openness in inspections, that that process has failed?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I would say that these reports that we are seeing of Iran enriching uranium and possessing more advanced centrifuge designs raise serious concerns. We have always stated our belief that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon program under the cover of pursuing nuclear power for peaceful reasons. A country with the vast oil and gas resources of Iran has no legitimate need for nuclear energy. And full confidence about Iran's nuclear program requires Iran to abandon uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities.

Iran agreed to -- a few months ago -- to implement an additional protocol to stop enriching and reprocessing uranium and related activities and to cooperate fully with the IAEA. The IAEA inspectors have been in Iran looking at these programs, and we look forward to hearing from the Director General of the IAEA at the March board meeting and discussing the matter further at that time. But these raise serious concerns.

Q When you say, serious concerns, and you have a discovery like this, is it proof to the administration that Iran is not fully cooperating?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, this is -- these are activities that were not previously declared. And the President, in his remarks last week at National Defense University, talked about how A.Q. Khan and his associates provided Iran with designs for Pakistan's older centrifuge, as well as designs for more advanced and efficient models. But again, we have serious concerns about reports that Iran is enriching uranium and possesses advanced centrifuge designs.

Q Scott, can you elaborate on any of the details of the proposal that the United States is backing to resolve the political crisis in Haiti?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think Secretary Powell spoke earlier today about where we are. And he said that he is not prepared to get into the details of a plan at this point, but he talked about how a consensus is emerging within the Organization of American States and the United Nations and other countries, including France and Canada -- certainly countries of the Caribbean community, and that we're working for a peaceful political resolution to the situation in Haiti, and that this might be a way forward to resolve the current political crisis in Haiti.

Q Well, that's what I was looking for, is some of the details. Can you --

MR. McCLELLAN: And Secretary Powell said he wasn't going to get into some of those details at this point, and nor will I.

Q Back on John's question, do you have any concerns about the deal with Japan and Russia are having with Iran right now?

MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, this question came up previously, and I think that there have been certain reports -- there are certain statements that Japan has made in terms of Iran adhering to the NPT and its IAEA obligations that could affect such projects, and could affect their future relations.

Q So you're not worried about it?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, I think Japan has stated that their future actions in regards to the NPT and in regards to the IAEA could affect those relations.

Q Do you take that as an assurance?

MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, John.

Q Got a couple here. Now that you have the backing of the United Nations on this idea that you can't hold elections prior to June 30th, but you still want to transition power to Iraqis, is there any other formula under which you could hand sovereignty over other than to hand it to some form of the Iraqi Governing Council?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think we have made it very clear that it should be transferred to a representative transitional government. And there's an agreement reached with the Iraqi Governing Council that laid out a framework for transferring sovereignty to a representative, transitional government. It's important -- I think everybody recognizes the importance of moving forward to transfer sovereignty to the Iraqi people on the timetable that was spelled out in the November 15th agreement. There is wide agreement on moving forward to meet that timetable.

And certainly the United Nations sent a team in there to look at the feasibility of elections. And I think that there's certainly been wide agreement there, too, that elections by the date of the transfer of sovereignty is not something that is feasible at this point. But I would repeat to you that our agreement with the Governing Council spelled out very clearly the importance of holding free, fair, and open elections. And it calls for three such elections moving forward.

Q But since this idea of caucuses appears to be going away, is there any other way you could transfer sovereignty without giving it to the Iraqi Governing Council and the idea being that you would expand the Council to be a little bit more representative?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there's certainly a lot of ideas that have been suggested. And we've always said that we're open to refinements and clarifications, but I'm not going to get into handicapping the different ideas that have suggested.

Q Just one point on a related question, if I could. You talked this morning at your gaggle about when the recession started. You know, the Council of Economic Advisors now takes it to the fourth quarter of 2000. The National Bureau of Economic Research says it's seen no compelling reason to move the date from March, 2001, where it is now, and even your own Bureau of Economic Analysis in this chart shows that there was actually growth in the fourth quarter of 2000. So how do you peg the start of the recession to that fourth quarter?

MR. McCLELLAN: John, I think any way you look at it, the economy was declining and weakening well before the President took office, and that that decline led us into a recession. That balloon was deflating well before this President took office. The facts are pretty clear.

Q But you have said that you inherited a recession. What it would appear is that you inherited slower growth, but not a recession.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, as I said, that any way you want to look at it, the economy was weakening, the economy was declining well before the President took office, and that is the reason we were headed into a recession. This President acted to get us out of a recession. But the facts are pretty clear. There is no question that the economy was weakening well before the President took office. GDP peaked in the fourth quarter of 2000; the stock market declined sharply, starting in September 2000; business investment started declining in the fourth quarter of 2000; initial jobless claims started increasing the week of April 15, 2000.

The fact that the recession ended just two months after the attacks of September 11th demonstrates the resilience of the U.S. economy and the effects of the tax cuts that we worked to pass in 2001. And so thanks to the President's actions and policies, it was one of the shallowest recessions in history.

Q I just want to be clear on one thing, though. I'm sorry for monopolizing your time here, but when you say, GDP peaked in the fourth quarter of 2000, that's your declaration, no one else's, correct?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I can get you all the sources for all this information. It's well-known.

Go ahead, John.

Q You've got another indictment in Enron. The President repeatedly said that he deplores the corporate malfeasance we've seen around the country. But even since the President started speaking about this, we've seen investigations, indictments. Is the President concerned that corporate culture isn't changing, and that a lot of companies, given the fact that a great majority are legitimate, that a lot of companies -- some companies, at least, just don't get it? They don't feel the chill from these prosecutions and they continue to do bad things, continue to be compelled by greed?

MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, the President has talked -- talks often about the importance of changing our culture, and one area, in particular, is the importance of ushering in a responsibility era. And that includes corporate responsibility. The corporate governance scandals that you bring up took a real toll on our economy. Some Americans lost their life savings, their lives were turned upside-down --

Q Are you speaking of Halliburton, by chance?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm trying to answer a question here, Helen.

Q I mean, you talk about the loss of lives.

MR. McCLELLAN: Can I finish the question? Then I'll be glad to -- I said, some Americans lost their life savings, their lives were turned upside-down. Investors lost confidence in the marketplace. Jobs were lost because of wrongdoing. Businesses shut down. And this administration has a strong record of working to crack down on corporate wrongdoing and holding people accountable for misconduct.

The President established a corporate fraud task force, and it has compiled a strong record in combating fraud and punishing corporate wrongdoers. The task force has been aggressively investigating and prosecuting fraud, which is helping to restore investor confidence. The administration is successfully working to restore confidence in the marketplace by rooting out this wrongdoing, to provide fair and accurate information to the investing public, and rewarding shareholder and employee trust, and to protect jobs and savings of hardworking Americans. There is strong action that this administration has taken to crack down on corporate wrongdoing and restore confidence in our marketplace.

Q But given the continuing indictments that are out there -- not just this one with Enron today -- does the President feel that these companies still don't get it, that there's still this culture of greed among too many corporate executives?

MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, I think many corporate leaders recognize the importance of taking responsibility to make sure that they're adhering to the highest standards. When you talk about the corporate scandals, I mean, this occurred -- the height of it occurred some time ago. There were a record number of corporate financial restatements -- even though many were not linked to misconduct -- questions about the reliability of accounting practices and the credibility of business leaders.

And so those concerns about what was sloppy and misleading accounting, and allegations of misconduct, decreased the incentives, increased the risk, and drove up the cost for small businesses. And so that's why this administration has acted to crack down on corporate wrongdoing. Since the Corporate Fraud Task Force was created, it has made significant strides. You have 290 corporate fraud cases in which 640-plus defendants have been charged with some type of corporate fraud crime. Over 250 of such defendants have either been convicted or plead guilty. And as of November 30th of '03, the Justice Department was investigating 354 corporate fraud matters, involving 617 different subjects. The SEC has also been taking action and is producing real results to stop this kind of corporate wrongdoing.

Q Scott, can I go back to Iraq for just a second? The talk about expanding the Governing Council speaks to the question of whether or not this administration concedes that there's something of a credibility problem that the IGC has within Iraq, that there's still a sense that it was imposed -- its leadership imposed by the United States. Do you recognize that that is the case? And then, how does that factor into any kind of adjustment you make for a transfer of sovereignty, to whatever that body is?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we appreciate the efforts of the Iraqi Governing Council and the ministers that have been appointed under that Council. You have -- beyond that, you have councils and -- city councils in towns and cities around, across Iraq. There are a number of steps that we are seeing where democracy is taking root.

This is at a point where you're getting into some complicated issues, when you talk about transferring sovereignty to a representative transitional government. And I think everybody recognizes that that's a complicated matter. And that's why we said we're willing to discuss refinements and clarifications to the framework that was agreed to on November 15th, but that we should continue to move forward on the timetable that was spelled out in that agreement.

Q One follow-up is -- but do you disagree that there is a perception problem, at least, that the IGC has, or a credibility problem that it has among a broader cross-section of the Iraqi people?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think what we agree with is -- what others agree with, as well -- is that there should be a representative transitional government put in place once we transfer sovereignty back to the Iraqi people. And that will be on June 30th.

Q Which would look different than the IGC, is what you're saying?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, now you're getting into questions of different ideas that have been suggested for having a representative transitional government. Like I said, I'm just not going to get into handicapping all the different ideas --

Q But there's a recognition that something has to -- there needs to be an adjustment for it to really -- to really be able to exist without the direct imprimatur of the United States.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think it -- I think it's important that there be a representative transitional government in place by the time that we transfer sovereignty. I think everybody agrees that that's important.

Q Two quick questions. One, according to the Indian law enforcement authorities, there are innocent people who are still being killed in Kashmir in India. And on the other hand, the talks that are going on between India and Pakistan, and they are saying that they're progressing. What role do you think President Bush has given to the new Ambassador to India, Mr. Mulford, in these talks?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we have been in close contact with leaders in Pakistan and India for quite some time. There was certainly a period there where tensions were on the up-rise, and now I think you're seeing that tensions are decreasing in the region. And we saw the joint statement that was put out at the end of the initial talks between the foreign secretaries of Pakistan and India. And that lays out a schedule for bilateral discussions. And we welcome these efforts and applaud the vision and the determination of the governments of India and Pakistan to seek a peaceful settlement of all bilateral issues, some of which you mentioned.

Let me keep going. There are a lot of hands up. Go ahead, Connie.

Q On the abortion amendments, can you elaborate or go further than what the President said yesterday? As you know -- not abortion, I'm sorry, homosexual marriage. As you know, there are a lot of -- your conservative supporters are clamoring for beginning of a constitutional amendment.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that there are many in America that share the President's commitment to protecting and defending the sanctity of marriage. This is an issue that the President has been looking at very closely. We continue to look at it very closely. And he pointed to some of the recent events that have been unfolding in different parts of the country that are seeking to redefine marriage. The President believes strongly that marriage is between a man and a woman and that we should protect this institution, this sacred institution. And that's why the President has said that if necessary, he is prepared to support the constitutional process to protect the sanctity of marriage. There are some activist judges that are seeking to redefine marriage without any regard for the voice of the people being heard.

Q But they want to know whether you're going to wait until the legal and legislative process plays out, which could be quite awhile.

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not putting any time frame on things. I'm saying that the President continues to look very closely at this issue. He believes very strongly in protecting the sanctity of marriage.

Q Scott, can I follow up on that?


Q There were several reports out that the President has, in fact, already made a decision --

MR. McCLELLAN: It's not so.

Q -- and that he intends to announce it soon.

Q Are you saying right now that the President has not yet made a decision on whether to support a constitutional amendment?

MR. McCLELLAN: It's something he continues to look at very closely. He has indicated that, if necessary, he would be prepared to support a constitutional amendment. If activist judges continue to seek to redefine marriage, the only alternative would be the constitutional process. And the President has specifically said that the legislation introduced by Congresswoman Musgrave reflects the principles which he has talked about.

Q So you're saying as of today, Thursday, he has not yet decided whether to support the Musgrave amendment?

MR. McCLELLAN: Don't know I can say it any other way, no.

Q Scott, on that point, Scott, when the President does decide, has he determined how he will do this? Will he just say, I'm now in favor of a constitutional amendment, which wouldn't be that much of a change from where he is, or will he propose a specific way of getting there?

MR. McCLELLAN: And now you're asking me to speculate about a decision that has not --

Q -- you said the President is in favor of one, if necessary.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- that has not been made -- a decision has not been made. And there will be plenty of opportunity to talk about it further, if and when that time comes.

Q Well, obviously the President is trying to decide whether or not to do this.

MR. McCLELLAN: He is looking at it very closely. You're right there.

Q That's what I'm saying. Therefore, as a part of that, will he actually say how we should proceed in getting a new constitutional amendment, or will he just throw his support behind one?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you're asking me to get ahead of something that hasn't been decided. I'll wait until there's more to say.

Q Scott, thank you. Back on Iraq for a second. When the United Nations reached out to the U.N., it was built around getting the U.N. to play some role in the elections or caucuses. What role, if any, do you see right now for the U.N. around the July 1 transition date?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the immediate role was for the U.N. to go in and send a team in to look at the feasibility of elections by June 30th. They did send a team in, and that team has reported back to the Secretary General. We've always said, and the President believes very strongly, that the United Nations has a vital role to play in Iraq. The United Nations was playing a vital role in Iraq prior to being attacked by terrorists in Baghdad. And we are hopeful that they will be able to play a vital role in the future. And those are discussions we'll continue to have with the United Nations and the Secretary General.

Q Do you believe that it's going to be -- you're going to be in a position where you're going to have to go back to the United Nations, potentially, for a resolution? Some countries have already mentioned recent -- in recent days, that maybe the United States has to come back, talk to us about a resolution to lay out exactly what they want us to do, whether it's reconstruction --

MR. McCLELLAN: That's what other countries have suggested. That's not what we have suggested. We are continuing to move forward on the November 15th agreement to transfer sovereignty by June 30th. That's what we're doing.

Q Last night -- Scott, last night Senator Daschle, and a handful of other Democrats, asked, in a letter to the President, if he would update the economic forecast in connection with the jobs and the economic report. What's the President's response to that request?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President is focused on doing more to create an even more robust environment for job creation. That's where the President's focus is on. Presidents and congressional leaders make policy decisions. And that's where the discussion should be. And the policies that this President has pursued are working to strengthen our economy and to create a robust environment for job creation. New jobs are being created. There are some 366,000 new jobs that were created in the last five months. Unemployment is declining. GDP is strong. We're seeing sustained economic growth.

But the President is not satisfied. The President believes there is more to do, and he calls on Congress to focus on acting on his proposals to strengthen the economy even more. That's where these leaders should focus their attention, on acting to create as robust an environment as possible for job creation, so that we can create as many jobs as possible. I mean, the forecast you point to, it was a snapshot in time. It was based on the data available at that point in time.

Q They're asking if the snapshot could be updated.

MR. McCLELLAN: It's done annually in the President's Economic Report. It's been done that way for some 21 years. That's why it was put forward in the economic report. I think you'll see -- I think you see lots of forecasts from economists that are updated all the time, based on available economic data. This President is focused on one thing, and that is creating as robust an environment as possible for job creation. He is encouraged by the direction the economy is going. And this debate ought to focus on the policy decisions that are being made. And the policies that we are pursuing are working.

Q One last question. Would he make the CEA -- Council of Economic Advisors available to congressional committees for a verbal update?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think where Congress ought to spend their time is working to act on policies that strengthen our economy even more. That's what we would call on these congressional leaders to do, is to get behind our efforts to create as robust an environment as possible for job creation. That's where their focus ought to be, because we are the policymakers, we are the decision-makers. And this President acts decisively to create as robust an environment as possible for job creation and economic growth.

Q Scott --

MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Jeff.

Q Thank you. Conservative groups have petitioned the public integrity section of the Department of Justice to take possession of a hard-drive now held by the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms. It contains memos that allegedly detail unethical and possibly criminal activity by Senate members and their staff. Since this conduct is focused on defeating the President's judicial nominees, will the White House support the confiscation of this evidence?

MR. McCLELLAN: You need to direct those questions to the Department of Justice.

Go ahead, April. I'm coming to you, Les. You haven't shown up in a while, so you shouldn't get special privilege ahead of everybody else.

Q I've been listening to all that defamation of the President in New Hampshire and South Carolina.

MR. McCLELLAN: You can always turn the TV off, Les. (Laughter.)

Q I've been listening to it live. I was freezing. (Laughter.)

Q I consider that a personal attack. (Laughter.)

Q Just a short -- well, a little bit more than short stone's throw from here, at the AFL-CIO, John Kerry is getting a major endorsement from an organization that believes in jobs and jobs in America. What are your thoughts about that?

MR. McCLELLAN: From the leaders that have historically supported Democrats. I think that working Americans support the President for the policies that he has advocated and worked to implement. I've just pointed out the importance of the tax relief that was passed, and what that means to families in America, and what it means to small business owners, and what it means to America's workers.

And the President is going to be talking a little bit more about that this afternoon. He has made one of his highest priorities creating a more prosperous America. And the actions that we are taking are moving this country in the right direction, and we should not turn back from those actions.

Q A follow-up to that, though, just because they support Democrats, what's wrong with an organization supporting --

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, look, I know you're --

Q But wait, wait, wait. Can I finish my question?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, but this is getting into campaign talk and endorsements --

Q You're in the campaign. Mrs. Bush is out there campaigning.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I'm the White House, and we're focused on our priorities here --

Q Mr. Bush lives at the White House, though --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- but there is a campaign -- there is a campaign office, if you have campaign questions.

Q This is not really a campaign issue, this is somewhat real -- come on, Scott. The deal is, whether it's Democrat or Republican, what's wrong with the fact of supporting jobs in America?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, what's wrong with supporting jobs? (Laughter.)

Q I mean, what's wrong with supporting job growth in America? You're saying these --

MR. McCLELLAN: That's exactly what this President has done. New jobs are being created.

Q -- but you're saying that they go more so for the Democrats. But what's wrong with that, whether --

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm just pointing out that I think there's a difference between the leadership and the rank-and-file workers.

Go ahead, Jacobo.

Q Yesterday I asked you a question -- President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has been criticizing almost on a daily basis the United States for intervening in Venezuelan political affairs. Yesterday the President of Venezuela once again hurled charges against the United States. You said that you're in favor of democratic reform in Venezuela, but how about a stronger answer? (Laughter.)

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I don't have any update beyond that. I think that you know that our views -- our views are very clear, that we support democratic effort -- the democratic reforms. We support efforts to fight corruption and root out corruption. And those views we make known to all countries. And I think our views are well-known when it comes to Venezuela. I think the State Department has talked at length about it.

Anybody else want a stronger answer?

Q Yes. (Laughter.)

Q Scott, I just want to get an answer.

MR. McCLELLAN: Sarah is up.

Q And then?

Q Thank you. Well, you have answered my question -- part of my question -- but the two leading Democratic candidates claim the main issue in November election is jobs, not national security. How does the President feel?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, without getting into a campaign discussion from this podium, I would just remind you how the President looks at the priorities of the American people. The most solemn obligation the President of the United States has is to protect the American people. And this President takes that responsibility very seriously, beginning each day when he wakes up and he looks at the intelligence reports that he receives about possible threats to this country. And this President acts decisively to confront those threats before it's too late.

September 11th changed the equation. But right up there with taking efforts to -- with the efforts to win the war on terrorism is taking steps to make America more prosperous, and to make America more compassionate and better. And so this President is acting on all those fronts. The highest priorities for this country are winning the war on terrorism, protecting the homeland, and bringing about greater prosperity in this country for the American people.

Q Sounds like a campaign speech to me.

Q A question on Haiti. If the ideology of this person is to prevent threats to democracy, like Haiti, for example, and trying to emerge democracy in countries that are under totalitarian regimes, as Iraq, for example, why is he waiting for the OAS and the CARICOM to help Haiti, when even the government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the opposition, they don't really care about what the OAS are saying, what the CARICOM are doing. Why is the President waiting? How many lives have to be lost in Haiti?

MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, I don't think we are. We're working to help those who need humanitarian assistance. There is a crisis going on in Haiti right now, and the United States is working closely with governments in the Caribbean, working closely with the Organization of American States, France and Canada and others to bring about a peaceful political resolution to the situation in Haiti. And we are moving forward on a plan that we expect to have more to say about soon. That was a question that was asked earlier. And there is a strong consensus that is emerging around that plan. So we're working to address this current political crisis in Haiti.

Q How many lives more has to be lost in Haiti until this government --

MR. McCLELLAN: That's why --

Q -- acts quickly?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's why it's important to call for an end to violence and to make sure that those who need humanitarian assistance are getting that assistance. We've been working to do that, and we are in close contact with a number of countries to bring about a peaceful resolution to the situation in Haiti. It's a difficult situation there right now. And we're working to address it with other countries.

Q Scott --

MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Les.

Q Thank you. The South Dakota State House of Representatives has just overwhelmingly passed a bill to outlaw all abortions, except to save the mother's life, with no regard for her health or if she's a victim of rape or incest. My question, the first of two: Does the President agree with this? Or does he feel it would be much wiser to oppose partial-birth abortion alone, given the Kerry-Edwards' record on that?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think the President's views are very well-known. The President is strongly committed to building a culture of life in America. This President has taken -- this President has taken steps to promote a culture of life in America. We worked to pass a ban on partial-birth abortion, which is a brutal procedure. The President has supported a number of efforts that will help build a culture of life.

Q Does he support South Dakota?

MR. McCLELLAN: He's stood up and opposed the cloning of human beings for reproductive or research purposes.

Q Given in the President's State of the Union address, I can recall no mention whatsoever of either the moon or Mars, and given the absolutely tremendous expense of a space station on the moon, and sending men to Mars, isn't their absence from the State of the Union due to the President's realizing this was a mistake, given the huge deficit that conservatives are complaining about?

MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, he spelled out a long-term vision for NASA in a lengthy speech that was given shortly before that. It is something that was important to describe in detail. The President believes it's important to focus resources on a clear mission, and that's what we have worked to do. We are working to reallocate many of those resources. This a long-term vision, though, Les. And at each step of the way, it will be reevaluated. But what we now have for NASA is a very clear vision for the future of our space program.

Q I've been gone three weeks. I should have one --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, no, no. No, no --

Q -- like those people in the front row --

MR. McCLELLAN: No. Greg.

Q -- who always get six --

MR. McCLELLAN: Greg -- Greg. Greg has got it, and then Rick.

Q Scott, thank you --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, no, Greg first. No, I said Greg first.

Q Let's get ready to rumble. (Laughter.)

Q Have any White House officials jumped the gun in talking about the President's potential decision about gay marriage?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think that White House officials have echoed what the President has said, that, if necessary, he is prepared to look to the constitutional process.

Q So conservatives who have said that they have received assurances from White House officials on this matter, the President is going to move forward, they are mistaken somehow?

MR. McCLELLAN: The White House officials I know that have talked about this issue to others have expressed exactly what the President expressed, and that is that, if necessary, the only alternative may be a constitutional amendment.

Go ahead, Rick.

Q Scott, outsourcing has become a topic of currency in this election, people are worried about our jobs going overseas. What specific --

MR. McCLELLAN: As is the President.

Q At what specific steps does the President -- is the President taking? Or does he envisage --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well --

Q -- to counter -- wait a minute, to counter outsourcing, or to offset outsourcing of American jobs to overseas countries?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think the President talked about some of those ideas just last week in one of his trips. Any time there is job loss, it is regrettable. And this President is acting to make sure that workers are prepared to meet the challenges of a 21st century economy. We have a changing economy. It's important that we continue to move forward and strengthen our economy even more. And the President has a six-point plan to do that. One important aspect of that is promoting free trade. But we need to make sure that as we promote free trade, that there is a level playing field, because we know that America's workers are the best in the world and that they can compete --

Q --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- hold on -- that they can compete anywhere in the world. And that's why this President has worked to promote free trade, but make sure that playing field is level. Productivity is high in the United States. You have a number of businesses, foreign businesses that come to the United States to hire American workers, to create jobs here in America because our workers are the best in the world.

And I also -- I was talking about the importance of meeting the needs of a changing economy. This President has put forward a plan to make sure that workers have the skills and training they need to meet the jobs of the 21st century. There are a number of sectors of our economy that are growing rapidly -- health care sector being one. And we want to make sure that workers have the skills to fill those jobs. These jobs are high-paying, high-skill jobs. Wages are up for America's workers. Disposable income is up for Americans. And so that's what the President is doing.

Q What about the suggestion by some that there be changes to the tax code to give tax credits to industries that actually promote jobs domestically and maybe penalties, too, on industries that outsource jobs?

MR. McCLELLAN: I've seen others plans. The President has put forward his plan, and you're very well of what that plan is.

Jeff, did you have --

Q Can I follow up on the outsourcing?


Q How do we expect the President to convince the private sector not to outsource jobs when state governments are doing exactly the same thing? For example, Washington state outsources several government functions.

MR. McCLELLAN: I hear you, but jobs have been going overseas to some extent, and that's a concern. And the President has talked about that. That's why the President is acting on the policies I just described.

Go ahead, John.

Q Scott, there's been a number of scandals recently in college football, mostly to do with recruiting. Now we've had a woman football player claim that she was raped at her former school. Her former football coach says she was a bad football player. Because of his statements, the college president has suspended him. Is the President concerned about the level of morality and ethics in college football? Does he think this is going down a slippery slope?

MR. McCLELLAN: Without getting into specific allegations that have been made, obviously allegations of that nature should be taken seriously. The President believes everyone who is involved in athletics, whether it be college or pro sports, has a responsibility to adhere to high standards. He talked on one specific point within his State of the Union about this. We need to make sure that our children are making the right choices in life. And adults should set the example by adhering to high standards.

All right, thank you.

END 1:14 P.M. EST

Return to this article at:

Click to print this document