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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 5, 2004
Press Gaggle by
Crawford Middle School
2:22 P.M. CST
MR. McCLELLAN: Bob will remind me at the end and I'll do the week ahead for next week. Let me start off, just a quick overview of the President's day.
The President had his usual briefings this morning. He's been spending the rest of the day at the ranch, talking with senior staff and spending some time outdoors. The President looks forward to welcoming President Fox to the ranch this evening. The President and Mrs. Fox will arrive at the ranch at approximately 5:00 p.m., and then the two leaders and their spouses will participate in a social dinner this evening. And then tomorrow, they will participate in some bilateral meetings and -- followed by a press availability.
And with that, I'll be glad to go right into your questions.
Q What's for dinner tonight? (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: We'll get you the menu. (Laughter.)
Q Will you comment on the monthly job creation numbers today? Is the administration going to revive its job projections --
MR. McCLELLAN: Sure. I think today's report underscores the importance of continuing on the path of the President's pro-growth policies to create as robust an environment for job creation as possible. The economy continues to grow stronger, and new jobs are being added. Today's unemployment report marks the sixth consecutive month of increases in new jobs. We've seen 364,000 new jobs created over the past six months. The unemployment rate is at 5.6 percent. That is the -- it's the largest eight-month decline since 1995, and still below the average unemployment rates of the '70s and '80s and '90s.
The President's policies are working to put the economy on the road to a strong recovery. But there is more to do. The President is not satisfied. And that's why he's continuing to call for action on his six-point plan, to create even a stronger environment for job growth. And I think that you have to keep in mind when you're looking at the employment report, that the choice for our nation is clear when it comes to economic security. Either we continue to grow the economy and create new jobs through the President's pro-growth, pro-jobs policies, or we raise taxes on families and small businesses and slow our economic recovery and future job creation. And so that's where it is.
Go ahead, Bob.
Q What do you see on the agenda for this weekend's meetings?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that -- well, one, let me back up, just talk about our relations with Mexico are very strong. The President very much looks forward to visiting with President Fox about a number of issues. We are partners who have a shared commitment to addressing the common challenges of our hemisphere. And so I expect they'll discuss a wide range of issues, from our cooperation on terrorism, to border security, to trade, to hemispheric issues, to water. So I imagine they'll discuss a wide range of issues.
Q -- too, the President's proposal --
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I expect they will talk about border security and talk about hemispheric issues. I'm talking about migration as well, and I expect that they will discuss that.
Q Scott, how about this fingerprinting issue that Asa Hutchinson mentioned yesterday? Is that going to become a reality that they're not going to fingerprint Mexicans who live near the border? Is that going to be announced tomorrow?
MR. McCLELLAN: It's still in the discussion stages at this point, but it's being considered very carefully. There's nothing that's final at this point. Obviously, you know, stay tuned, we'll keep you posted when there is more to announce. We have been working with our partners in the Mexican government on a number of ideas to incorporate the U.S. visit at our southern ports of entry, with a focus on figuring out the best and most effective way to facilitate the travel of Mexican citizens that cross the border on a regular basis.
And as you are aware, they -- right now, those Mexican citizens have border crossing cards when they come into the U.S. And they apply for that multi-use travel document which could, under this proposal, be an acceptable alternative to the U.S. visit program. Under that -- under the card that they apply for now, Mexican citizens undergo a biographical and biometric background check and have their finger scans embedded into the cards. And so that could be an acceptable alternative. It's something that we're giving careful consideration.
Q Are they going to discuss this? Is this part of the discussions?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, obviously, let's let the meetings take place. And you're going to hear from the two leaders tomorrow, and then we can discuss it further at that point, if --
Q It sounds like you're saying that there's not going to be an announcement this weekend from the President to Fox.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm not putting any time frame on it. I'm just saying that it's something that remains in the discussion stage. We are looking very closely at it. And that's where it stands at this point.
Q Scott, September 11th -- some September 11th families are calling on the President to withdraw these ads that use images of September 11th. What does the President think?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, in terms of campaign advertisements, I think you ought to address those questions directly to the campaign. I think they've made our views very well known when it comes to this issue.
Q So they're not going to pull them?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the campaign has already -- I think they've already addressed that. And keep in mind that this is about leadership and decision making when it comes to national security in a post-September 11th world. These are threats that did not happen overnight. I think you heard from Mayor Giuliani, you heard from the former police chief, Bernard Kerik yesterday, when he said, "I think you have to stick with reality. The reality is, President Bush responded on September 11th. He led this country through our worst day and he's taking this country into a battle that we should have started back in 1993."
September 11th was a defining moment for our nation. It was something we all shared, and it was an experience that taught us we must confront the dangerous new threats we face from terrorism before it's too late. And it's important to talk about how we lead in this post-September 11th world, to make the world safer and make America more secure. And that's exactly what the President is doing.
Q Can you also confirm that Air Force One documents -- been handed over to a federal grand jury?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I would just say that we are, at the direction of the President, cooperating fully with those who are leading the investigation. We are complying with every request, and we will continue to comply fully with the requests from those who are leading this investigation. No one wants to the bottom of it more than the President of the United States.
Q So they were handed over?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we did send -- the White House Counsel's Office did send a letter out to White House staff, urging everybody to comply fully with the request from the investigators, and that's exactly what we are doing. But, yes, at this point we're still in the process of complying fully with those requests. We have provided the Department of Justice investigators with much of the information and we're continuing to provide them with additional information and comply fully with the request for information.
Q -- these latest subpoenas that were reported today?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that's the context in which Heidi was asking her question.
Q But you're answering more broadly. I'm looking for confirmation you got the subpoenas and that you responded to them.
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, our Counsel's Office immediately sent a letter to White House staff, directing everyone to cooperate fully and comply with the request from those leading the investigation.
Q What was the date of that letter?
MR. McCLELLAN: I can double-check the specific date. It was -- you know, part of our complying fully with the request of the Department of Justice investigators was not making this document public, as well.
Q But this was not the broad directive from --
MR. McCLELLAN: It was the latter part of January. I didn't check the exact, specific date, but it was the latter part of January.
Q Was it in response to this set of subpoenas we're hearing about today?
MR. McCLELLAN: Was what in response --
Q The White House Counsel's directive.
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. Yes.
Q Okay. Thank you.
MR. McCLELLAN: We immediately sent a letter out to White House staff, urging everyone to comply fully with the request.
Q Can you say how many subpoenas were received, Scott?
MR. McCLELLAN: Mark, I think you ought to direct those specific questions to those who are leading the investigation. Again, as I said, we're complying fully with their request, and that includes not making that letter that we sent to White House staff public.
Q Scott, does either the President or Secretary Card have a policy on whether it's acceptable for White House aides to take the Amendment when they're asked questions in this case?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, keep in mind that by law, grand jury investigations are closed, and prosecutors and grand jurors cannot reveal anything about the proceedings. The President has made it very clear he wants everybody inside government and outside government to provide those who are leading the investigation with information that might help them get to the bottom of this. He's been very clear about this, but let me make clear that -- well, go ahead, Mike.
Q Go ahead.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, no. You were going to ask a question; go ahead.
Q Are you willing to say that White House aides who ask questions in this investigation should not take the 5th Amendment?
MR. McCLELLAN: Our policy, at the direction of the President, is that everybody should cooperate fully with those who are leading the investigation. That's our policy. I'm not going to speculate about grand jury proceedings. I have no knowledge of anyone invoking their legal right against self-incrimination. I checked with White House Counsel's Office, and they have no knowledge of anyone invoking their legal right against self-incrimination.
Jeff, go ahead.
Q Scott, it was a little difficult to hear the exchange that was going on, I want to make sure I understand what you've acknowledged responding to, subpoena-wise. You have responded to the subpoena for telephone records from Air Force One?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, we are complying fully with the request from the Department of Justice. I think you can ask them about the specific questions and issues -- the investigators, that is -- and, like I said, we prefer that you direct those questions to them, in our belief that that is helping them move the investigation forward.
Q Okay. One more thing on the jobs issue. You said the President --
MR. McCLELLAN: We are complying fully with that request, and we are continuing to comply with certain matters that have been requested. We're working very closely with the investigators on that.
Q You said the President is not satisfied with these numbers. But these numbers are nearly 100,000 fewer jobs than had been predicted for the month. I mean, it goes beyond not being satisfied, doesn't it? Is the President disappointed by the rate of growth in jobs?
MR. McCLELLAN: He's not satisfied. There are people that are still looking for work who cannot find a job, and there's more that we need to do. That's why the President has put forward a six-point plan to create an even more robust environment for job creation.
Keep in mind that -- what I pointed out about the unemployment rate, and keep in mind that GDP grew by almost 6.1 percent in the second half of 2003. And that was the biggest gain for a six-month period in nearly two decades. Real disposable income for Americans is up. Productivity is high. There are a lot of good signs about the direction we are moving, and we're on the road to a strong recovery. But there's more to do. And that's why I said the President is not satisfied. But new jobs are being created.
Q Does there come point, though, where despite his six-point plan, the President starts to realize that one's ability in that office to influence the economy and influence job creation is rather limited?
MR. McCLELLAN: There are additional steps that we can take that build on the policies we have already implemented to creating a more robust environment for job creation. The policies the President has worked to implement are working. The tax relief is working. Remember, we came into office with a recession; then we had the September 11th attacks; we had the corporate scandals; we had the lead-up to war. So there -- this economy has been through a lot. But this President acted to get it growing strong, and it is continuing to grow strong. But he is not satisfied. There is, obviously, more that we need to do. And that's why he has been calling for Congress to act on the six-point plan that he has outlined.
We live in a changing economy, we're in a different kind of economy. And that's why the President has also outlined a 21st century jobs initiative, to make sure that workers are trained with the skills that they need to fill the high-paying, high-skill jobs of the 21st century. And he will continue to work to make sure that we meet the needs of this changing economy.
Q Scott, one more on the jobs question. The number of jobs created in the private sector last month was zero. Is that good news?
MR. McCLELLAN: Mark, the jobs over the last six months that have been added are some 364,000. The economy is moving in the right direction, but there is clearly more to do. And the President has a plan to create an even more robust environment to create more jobs.
Q Last month's numbers, though, would you consider that good news?
MR. McCLELLAN: Mark, again, the President is simply not satisfied. There is more that we need to do. That's the way I would describe it. But if you look over the last six months, the economy is strong and growing stronger. New jobs are being created. If you look at the household survey it takes a different look at the job numbers. So there are different numbers out there.
But the bottom line is that there are still people who are hurting in this economy, and there is more that we need to do. And the President has a plan to address that. And the last thing we need to do at this point in our economy when it's moving in the right direction is raise taxes on families, or raise taxes on small businesses, or take actions that isolate us from the rest of the world. Economic isolation is not an answer to the problems. We need to expand free trade, we need to continue to expand free trade. We need to continue to stop frivolous lawsuits. We need to have meaningful lawsuit reform. We need to continue to act on the health care policies that address the rising cost of health care, to create an even more prosperous economic environment.
Q Scott, one more on jobs. Last August, the President had many of the Cabinet members at the ranch to review the economy. In interviews afterwards, Secretary Evans, on August 13th said, "As we move into the fall and we watch the economy, if it's not performing how we expect it to perform, the President will consider other action." What other action has he considered, other than --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the other action is the six-point plan he put forward, the Jobs for the 21st Century Initiative that he has outlined, that he outlined in his State of the Union address. So there are a number of policies that this President has put forward. Those are the policies that Congress needs to act on to create an even more robust environment for job creation.
Q And could I ask one other question on a separate subject? Senator Kennedy in a speech today said again that "the President and his aides engaged in manipulation of the evidence in making the case for war."
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think this is the first time we've heard Senator Kennedy make such unsubstantiated and baseless charges. And I imagine, given that it's an election year, it won't be the last time.
Q Scott, there are a couple of issues that may come up, that they will talk about this weekend -- water and the death penalty. Mexico has outlined a plan for repaying its water debt by paying the required amount under the treaty each year, plus an additional -- I think last year it was 16 percent, this year they're trying for more and I think the two Presidents were supposed to talk about this in Monterrey. Is President Bush satisfied with this plan? Or is he going to push for more this weekend?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let's let the meeting take place. You're going to have an opportunity to visit with the two leaders tomorrow, so I want to let the meeting take place before we get too far into that. But we have engaged in discussions at both the technical and diplomatic level concerning water deliveries to the United States that were called for by the Waters Treaty of 1944. And we're pleased progress was made this past year, as water deliveries from Mexico exceeded the annual treaty obligation. And they've already met their annual obligation for the 2003-2004 period. But there are still -- the outstanding deficits, while it has not increased, we still need to develop some long-term solutions that will reduce the volume of waters owed to the United States and prevent a recurrence of such a large deficit.
Q -- this is an issue that Fox does intend to raise, it's an issue that prevented his decision last (inaudible.) Mexico has gotten an international court of justice ruling that they will rule on some --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that's still an outstanding legal matter with the international court.
Q The court has asked the United States to help these executions while it rules. Does the White House have a position on that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, let's let the meeting take place. And we'll go from there. But I think our position has always been that there be appropriate consular notification ahead of time, and that's something we've always talked about.
Q But does the White House have a position on the international court's --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, see, that's a legal matter that's going on right now, and I'm not going to get into speculating about it at this point.
Q You've seen today that Martha Stewart has been found guilty on all four counts. Is this another example of what you guys call, in the administration, cracking down on corporate --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not going to get into discussing a specific legal matter. I mean, I think that's a legal matter that's being addressed by the courts.
Q But you guys talk a lot about corporate standards and how the President has been cracking down on --
MR. McCLELLAN: Absolutely. Corporate responsibility is something the President has talked about for quite some time, and we've taken action to crack down on corporate wrongdoing. This administration is strongly committed to cracking down on corporate wrongdoing, and we have a proven record of taking significant steps to address it.
Q -- signing of the Iraqi --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, I think you're seeing democracy in action. It's not unusual when a society is working to build democratic institutions that there are going to be bumps along the road. But the important thing is that Iraqi leaders are able to freely discuss these issues with one another, and do so publicly, without the threat of brutal action by an oppressive regime. So democracy is moving forward in Iraq and, obviously, along the way there will be some bumps in the road. But as I understand it, they're working to address some technical matters. But this document will mark an historic day for the people of Iraq as it's a step towards a better and more free future.
Q Scott, at what point, though, do developments like this start to imperil on the June 30th deadline?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q At what point do these --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's why I said I understand that this is relating to some technical matters, or a technical matter related to the transitional administrative law, and they're working to resolve it. That's democracy. I mean, our own nation has experienced many more bumps on our own road to establishing democratic institutions.
Q Sure, but -- so there's no concern here that the June 30th deadline isn't in peril?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, we're continuing to move forward on the transfer of sovereignty on that timetable.
Q Scott, on this weekend, immigration is something that the President sort of made a big deal out of this new policy before we went down to Mexico, but we haven't heard a lot about it since. What are you saying -- what is the President going to say to President Fox about the prospects for that proposal?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you're going to hear from them afterwards, and I imagine that's an issue they will address at their press availability. But the President is strongly committed to moving forward on a temporary worker program that meets our economic needs in this country, and also, at the same time, provides for more humane treatment of those who are here now, working in this country. They did not have the protections that other workers do at this point. But this is talking about providing for jobs to be filled when there are not -- there are no Americans to fill those jobs.
Q Scott, given that both the House and the Senate say they will not take this up, what is the President going to do to move forward on that --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he's going to continue to talk about the importance of acting on it. We are continuing to work with Congress to work on legislation that meets the principles that the President outlined.
Q Scott, do you expect any discussion of human rights tomorrow, either Mexico's current record or ways that the United States --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, let's let the meeting take place. But, certainly, strengthening democracy in the hemisphere and strengthening the rule of law in the hemisphere has been a priority for the United States and it's been a priority for Mexico, as well. We've worked together at the Summit of the Americans, we work closely to strengthen democracy, to fight corruption, to strengthen the rule of law. And we've worked together to expand economic opportunities in the hemisphere and reduce poverty. But let's let the meeting take place, and then we'll have more to say at that point.
Q When Asa Hutchinson testified to Congress yesterday, his prepared remarks apparently had in there that the administration is going to scrap the fingerprinting and photograph requirement for coming into the country -- but he didn't say it explicitly, he only mentioned it, saying it was something the administration was just considering, instead of flat-out doing -- but only when prompted by a congressman. And there is speculation that there was pressure from the White House right before he was going to testify, which is why he didn't say it explicitly. Is that true? Or do you --
MR. McCLELLAN: Obviously, there's an interagency process, and we work very closely with departments, including the Department of Homeland Security on matters like this before there is an announcement. And as I said, it's still something that's in the discussion stages. I think you can direct questions to the Department about specifics about what his prepared remarks said.
But, obviously, that's something that we discussed through an interagency process and worked very closely with the department to address. But this is something we're looking at very closely and giving strong consideration.
Q Why are we doing this?
Q Can you tell me what the administration's thinking is then on what the positive aspects of scrapping that program would be?
MR. McCLELLAN: Of scrapping the program? I don't think we're scrapping any program. I wouldn't look at it that way. I mean, the U.S. visit entry procedures are currently in place at 115 airports and 14 seaports, and it's going to be expanded to the 50 busiest land ports of entry, as well. The goals of the U.S. visit, you have to keep in mind, are to enhance our security -- enhance the security of both U.S. citizens and visitors to this country; to facilitate legitimate travel and trade. And that's why I said we've been working closely with Mexico on a number of ideas to incorporate the U.S. visit at our southern ports of entry, and looking at ways we can better facilitate the travel of those Mexican citizens that cross the border on a regular basis.
When you're talking about the border crossing card, this allows Mexican citizens to stay in the United States for up to 72 hours and travel within the border zone. That's the 25-mile area of the border in Texas, California and New Mexico, and I think 75 miles from the border in Arizona. And, as I said, when they get that card, Mexican citizens have to undergo a biographical and biometric background check and have their finger scans in that card. And so that could be an acceptable alternative to the U.S. visit system for those Mexican citizens.
Q Just to clarify -- and that's what is being considered right now, but it has not been announced or adopted by the administration yet; is that correct?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, there's nothing to announce at this time. It's being given strong consideration.
Q Well --
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I'm not going to put a time on it.
Q -- strong consideration?
MR. McCLELLAN: What's that?
Q Strong, strong, strong consideration. (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: Anything else? Mr. Knoller. Last one. And then we'll do the week ahead.
Q On the campaign ads, does the President regret that some 9/11 families are offended by the 9/11 images --
MR. McCLELLAN: Look, it's just something we respectfully disagree with. And I think most Americans feel it's important to talk about how we lead in a post-September 11th world. September 11th changed the equation for how we confront the threat from terrorism. We are a nation at war because of the events of September 11th. It was a defining moment in our nation. It's a defining moment for our future. And the way we lead in a post-September 11th world is something that's critical to the security of this nation.
Q Do you believe that all the complaints about the ads are politically motivated, or do you think some of it --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I can understand why some on the other side of the aisle may not want to talk about some of these issues. But the President recognizes his most solemn responsibility is the protection of the American people. And the President's leadership is vital to winning the war on terrorism and making the world safer, and making America more secure. And the choice is clear: we either take the offensive, like we are doing, and confront these threats before it's too late, or we go back to a time when it was addressed just as a law enforcement matter.
All right, week ahead? Bob is anxious.
On Monday, March 8th, we've already announced that the President will announce the Bush-Cheney 2004 luncheon in Dallas and attend the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in Houston. For those of you who haven't been, I hope you will enjoy it. It's quite a show.
Q Scott, what's he going to do there?
MR. McCLELLAN: We'll get you more on that. I'll get you more. I don't have all those details in front of me right now. Then he'll attend the Bush-Cheney 2004 reception in Houston.
On Tuesday, the President will make remarks at the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards Ceremony in Arlington. On Wednesday, he will make remarks at the Women's Entrepreneurship in the 21st Century Forum in Cleveland, Ohio. On Thursday, March 11th, the President will make remarks, via satellite, to the National Association of Evangelicals Convention. Then the President will go to Bay Shore, New York, where he tours USA Industries. Then he will participate in a conversation on the economy and job training. Then the President will visit Nassau County 9/11 Memorial, in East Meadow, New York. And that evening he will attend a Bush-Cheney 2004 reception in East Meadow, New York.
On Friday, the President makes remarks on efforts to promote women's rights globally in the East Room. And then on Sunday, March 14th, the President will attend the Ford's Theater Gala at the Ford's Theater. And that's all I've got.
Q What is the subject of the radio address?
MR. McCLELLAN: Iraq.
All right, thanks.
Q Any readout, whatsoever, tonight on Fox, meetings tonight?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, we'll get you the menu and get you those kind of usual details.
Q A readout --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, not tonight. Not tonight. I don't expect anything tonight.
Q Thank you.
END 2:51 P.M. CST