|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 12, 2004
Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
10:03 A.M. EST
MR. McCLELLAN: Good morning. I'll try to move quickly through the beginning, because we have a very short flight here.
The President had his usual briefings this morning. There will be a Freedom Corps greeter upon arrival. Then he'll participate in a conversation on education and his Jobs for the 21st Century Initiative. The participants will include school officials and some students.
And then we return back to the White House this afternoon. He is scheduled to meet with the Secretary of State later this afternoon. A couple of --
Q Any coverage of that?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, that's just one of his regular meetings with the Secretary of State.
Tomorrow morning the President will be meeting with the delegation of governors that recently returned from Iraq in the Roosevelt Room. We'll let you know on coverage on that.
Also one other thing I just want to mention is that the Senate is expected to vote on the highway legislation today. I think you've heard the President talk about this piece of legislation. You've heard the President talk about the importance of funding our priorities and holding the line on spending elsewhere in the budget, in the non-defense, non-homeland security areas. And that includes the highway legislation, as well. We have put out a statement of administration policy on this.
This is the first test for the Congress when it comes to spending restraint. And the President's proposal is at $256 billion -- this is for the next six years -- it's a 21 percent increase above the previous six years. And we urge Congress to show spending restraint in moving forward on this legislation.
Q If they don't, will he veto a bill that --
MR. McCLELLAN: In our statement of administration policy his senior advisors have said that they would recommend a veto.
Q If it goes over that dollar figure?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- for spending restraint. And we urge Congress to hold the line on spending.
Q And the veto threat is if the dollar figure goes over $256 billion?
MR. McCLELLAN: There are a few other aspects to it, but the Senate proposal is now, I believe, at $318 billion -- you can double-check that number.
Q Has he spoken to Senator Frist about this, or the Republican leadership in Congress about his specific wishes on this bill?
MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, they're very well aware of our views on it.
Q Has he spoken to the --
MR. McCLELLAN: He meets regularly with the leaders and talks to the leaders regularly. He visited with Senator Frist and Speaker Hastert earlier this week and they certainly talked about legislative priorities.
Q But did he put it as you have it, this is the first test of the President's renewed spending interest?
MR. McCLELLAN: There have been congressional meetings where he has brought it up --
Q What do the dental records --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- I don't know the exact words, but he has talked about the importance of making sure that we show spending restraint when it comes to non-homeland, non-defense priorities in the budget.
Q In your words, what do the dental records show or prove?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there were some that raised the question about his service during his time in Alabama. And this document further demonstrates the President fulfilling his duties and serving while in Alabama. I suppose some might now try to suggest that, well, this is only his teeth, this doesn't show that he was there. (Laughter.)
Q If you guys are so interested in putting out all the explanations you could possibly give to say, you know, he was there, he fulfilled his duties, why won't you talk about why he didn't show up for his physical, which is a question that persists still?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I don't think it is; we answered that question four years ago. The reason -- well, he was on -- first of all, you're saying he didn't show up. He was on -- he moved to Alabama for a civilian job and he was on non-flying status while in Alabama. There was no need for a flight exam.
Q Governor Kean from New Jersey wants -- said he wants President Bush and President Clinton and their Vice Presidents to testify publicly on the 9/11 -- for the 9/11 Commission. Will the President do that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you heard the President was asked that question over this weekend, and he responded to Tim Russert, when asked, would you talk to the commission. And he said, perhaps. I mean, obviously, we have been working closely and cooperatively with the commission to make sure they have all the information they needed to do their job. And I think you've heard comments from the chairman and vice chairman saying that we have provided unprecedented cooperation. And we have provided a number of senior officials to brief the commission about information. And, obviously, we are continuing to work closely with the commission in a spirit of cooperation. And all these are issues that we will continue to discuss with the commission in a spirit of cooperation.
Q So the answer is "no"? I mean, so he's not going to testify or --
MR. McCLELLAN: You're putting words into my mouth now. I said that we will talk to the commission about these issues.
Q Well, why wouldn't you just agree to it outright now? I mean, if they're saying they're going to call Bush, why wouldn't you just say Bush, of course, will comply with the request?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, if they have something they want to bring to our attention or something they want to raise with us, we will be glad to discuss those issues with them -- we have been -- and continue to work with them in a spirit of cooperation to --
Q Do you think there's any need for Bush --
MR. McCLELLAN: Can I finish? To make sure they have the information they need to do their job.
Q You don't think -- is there any need for Bush to appear before them, in your opinion?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, those are issues that we'll continue to discuss with the commission.
Q Scott, can I turn to today? Do you think it's awkward at all for the President to be coming to a state that's lost a lot of manufacturing jobs, lost a lot of jobs in general, not only to talk about the economy, but to talk about it at a time when Gregory Mankiw is under criticism for his out-sourcing comments?
MR. McCLELLAN: And, actually, I think you should go back and look at what he has said in the last couple of days. But I expect the President will talk about the -- what we are doing to create jobs here at home. This President is focused on creating jobs here at home.
And one important part of expanding job growth here at home is to continue to promote free trade. That's what this administration is doing. And keep in mind that America's workers are the best in the world. Productivity is high. That means better wages and better living standards for America's workers. And that is also why you have foreign companies coming to America, investing here, and hiring American workers to do jobs.
And it's also very important that we continue to make sure that workers have the training they need to meet the jobs of the 21st century. There are a number of growing sectors in our economy, and we want to make sure that people have the skills they need to fill those jobs. And I think the President will talk about this very issue that you raise in his remarks.
Q Does that mean he's going to clarify, in some way, this whole debate that's been going on this week?
MR. McCLELLAN: It's important that -- well, what do you mean, "clarify"?
Q Well, you've got people -- you've got Speaker Hastert now, even, you've got Republicans and Democrats criticizing Mr. Mankiw's comments. And so I'm asking whether the President is going to --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the Speaker said something about, it's important that we are creating jobs here at home. And I'm glad he agrees with the President of the United States. The President of the United States has shown, by his actions, that we are committed to creating as robust environment as possible for job creation. I would remind you that over the last five months, we have seen some 366,000 jobs created, new jobs created. We are continuing -- the economy is strong and is growing stronger because of the actions that we have taken.
There's more that we need to do. That's why the President has a six-point plan that includes expanding free trade, because free trade is good for our economy here at home and it's good for expanding job growth here at home. And he also has put forward his 21st century jobs program, so that we can make sure workers have the skills they need to fill these high paying, high skilled jobs of the 21st century. And I think he will talk to this issue today. Any job loss is regrettable. We have made that very clear. And that's why this President is not satisfied, because there are people still out there looking for work. And he's committed to making sure that they have the possibility to work.
Q But, Scott, does he believe, as a fundamental part of his economic world view, that some jobs, as a part of this economy, disappear and will never come back?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q Does the President believe, as a part of his economic world view --
MR. McCLELLAN: One thing, one thing --
Q -- appear to be gone forever?
MR. McCLELLAN: There are a lot of growing sectors in this 21st century. There are a lot of growing sectors of the economy. I mean, there are some people he met with just the other day at the White House, some economic leaders in some of those high growth areas. Health care is certainly one area. We need to make sure -- there are jobs available in those areas, and we need to make sure workers in America have the skills to fill those jobs. And that's where the President's focus is. The President's focus is on creating jobs here at home. And we know that when we have free trade with a level playing field, American workers can compete with anyone, because they're the best workers in the world.
Q But just as he recognizes that there are new jobs flowering in this 21st century economy, does he also recognize that some kinds of jobs are gone and will never return?
MR. McCLELLAN: Look, I know you're trying to get me to say certain things. What I'm saying is what the President is doing. The President is acting to make sure this economy is strong, and acting to make sure we have as robust an environment as possible for job creation. New jobs are being created. Over the last five months, there are a lot of positive signs about the direction this economy is moving. And we will continue to act, as long as there are people who are looking for work and cannot find a job.
Q Joe Allbaugh says that it is hogwash, the report from one person who was in Texas, that some documents were thrown away a couple of years ago -- I guess during the governor's years -- having to do with the records. Is anyone from the White House checking or double-checking to make sure no documents were discarded?
MR. McCLELLAN: Ann, I think it wasn't just Joe Allbaugh, it was several individuals that were -- that charges were leveled against. All of them said how ridiculous that accusation was. And I noticed an article in one of the papers today that had a graphic with information that was blacked out. And it was -- it's interesting to see the conspiracy theories that are out there, because there are certain privacy issues always involved when the National Guard or any government agency releases information.
Let me tell you what was in that blacked out part. I've got it here right with me. This is from what was in the paper today. It says, "Have you ever been arrested, indicted or convicted for any violation of civil or military law?" This was the President's application for a commission. And he was providing personal history there. On here it says -- and you all can see it right here with me, this is the part that was in the paper this morning -- misdemeanor, New Haven, Connecticut, December 1966, charge dismissed. Well, this was a widely-reported prank that the President was involved in while at Yale University.
Q The wreath --
MR. McCLELLAN: The wreath, that's exactly right. Two speeding tickets, July '64 and August '64, $10 fine, Houston traffic court. Two collisions, July '62 and August '62, $25 fine, Houston traffic court. I'm just amazed by the kinds of conspiracy theories that some have chosen to pursue. The facts are very clear. But there are some that are simply not interested in the facts. And the American people deserve better. They deserve an honest discussion about leadership in a time of war. They deserve an honest discussion about leadership in a time when our economy is growing strong, but there is more to do.
Q Scott, just to keep trolling for a minute. This sheet that's in your hand and the blackout that was in one of the newspapers --
MR. McCLELLAN: This is the exact thing in the newspaper.
Q Who did the blackout that showed up in the --
MR. McCLELLAN: You'd have to ask the people who released those documents.
Q Okay. So what you have is something that came from the same source, that was not blacked out?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that you all recognize that when government agencies or people like the National Guard release information, there are privacy issues involved. And I expect that they follow those --
Q But the White House got a copy that did not have the blackout.
MR. McCLELLAN: The President's records, that's correct.
Q Glad we asked.
MR. McCLELLAN: Anything else? Thank you.
END 10:17 A.M. EST