For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 16, 2004
Press Briefing by Scott McClellan
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
1:10 P.M. EST
MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon. I'm glad to begin with your questions; I have no opening statement to make. Helen.
Q Is the administration concerned that it has a real credibility problem, no weapons in Iraq, understating the cost of Medicare and so forth?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think, Helen, this President has done exactly what he said he would do when it comes to those issues. And I think the President has talked at length about the intelligence you referred to: the intelligence that the U.N. had, the intelligence that the Congress had, the intelligence that the administration had said that Saddam Hussein's regime was a threat and a danger. And that danger has been removed from power.
Q There was no danger, they have not established that. David Kay --
MR. McCLELLAN: Helen, I understand that you agree that -- or you say that the world is not safer because of the action we took in Iraq, but I dispute that. The world is safer because of the action we took in Iraq. America is more secure because of the action we took in Iraq. The Iraqi people have been liberated; some 25 million people are now realizing a better future.
Q -- thousands are dead.
MR. McCLELLAN: And on Medicare, the President did exactly what he said he was going to do: He kept our commitment to America's seniors and passed prescription drug coverage for our seniors for the first time.
Q What about the pricing?
Q What is the President going to argue to the troops in Kentucky on Thursday, as he marks the one-year anniversary?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think maybe tomorrow we can preview that a little bit more for you. Obviously, the President will continue to talk about the importance of staying on the offensive in the war on terrorism. We are fighting this war on a number of fronts. Last Thursday's attacks in Spain were a grim reminder that we are a nation at war, that we are a world at war against terrorism. This is a global war on terrorism and we must continue to take the fight to the terrorists.
Q Scott, you said this morning that terrorists shouldn't be allowed to think that they can influence elections or policy. Do you think that that was the case in Spain?
MR. McCLELLAN: Terry, we went through this yesterday. There's a lot of analysis about the election. I'll leave the analysis on the election to others. But terrorists want to intimidate. They want to shake the will of the civilized world. And as you heard from the President earlier, they cannot. The United States remains strong in our resolve and in our determination. The civilized world remains strong in its determination and its resolve. We will continue to pursue this war on terrorism and bring those terrorists to justice before they can carry out their attacks.
Q Well since you brought it up -- since you brought it up this morning, I thought maybe you had it in some context.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that, obviously, there has been some discussion out there on it. I think it is the wrong message to send to make those suggestions. It is a terrible message to send. We must send a message of unity, of strength, and of resolve in the war on terrorism. Terrorists want to break our will and resolve. They want us to cut and run. There is no negotiating with terrorists. You cannot make peace with terrorists. We must continue to stand together and wage this war on the offensive. That's the way to confront the threat of terrorism.
Q How are you going to get unity, strength and resolve if you have large populations in Europe opposed to what the United States has done? And if you get the leadership to shift, as happened in this election in Spain --
MR. McCLELLAN: Let's distinguish here, there's the global war on terrorism, and I think in some instances you're referring to some differences on Iraq. What's important to remember is that -- I think that we would disagree with some of the suggestions you made in your question there. I think many of the Iraqi people would disagree, and I think that the coalition in Iraq would disagree.
Q I wasn't talking about the Iraqis, I was talking about the Europeans.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, what's important for us all to do is what the President said earlier -- we must stand together in our resolve and in our strength and determination, to win the war on terrorism. Terrorists cannot think that they can influence elections or influence policy. That is the wrong message to send. That's why we must redouble our efforts and take the fight to the terrorists.
Now, as far as Iraq, we are now at a point in Iraq where we are moving forward on the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi people. We are working together to help the Iraqi people realize a brighter and better future. We are now working together to advance the cause of freedom and democracy in the Middle East. That will be very important to winning the war on terrorism.
Q Will the President attempt to bring Europeans along by, for example, going to the United Nations and offering them a larger role?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, a couple things. One, we've always said the United Nations has a vital role to play in Iraq --
Q Yes, but you haven't said what it is.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, we've talked about how they -- they were playing a vital role in the postwar period in Iraq, before they were attacked by terrorists for what they were doing to help provide aid to the Iraqi people. They played an important role in looking at the possibility of elections earlier than what has been called for previously. We all have a shared commitment to move forward on elections as soon as possible, and they've been very involved in those efforts. We also believe that the U.N. can play -- can continue to play a very vital role in the future for the Iraqi people.
Now there have been three resolutions that have been passed by the United Nations, and we believe those resolutions do provide for a lot of the authority that the coalition is carrying out in Iraq. I would refer you specifically back to Resolution 1511, which authorizes -- and this is taking it directly from the resolution -- authorizes a multinational force under unified command. And then it goes on from there to talk about that. And then it goes on in the next point to urge member states to contribute assistance under this resolution, including military forces, through the multinational force referred to in the above paragraph.
Now, in terms of a future resolution, we've said we're willing to consider ideas for updating Resolution 1511 at some point around the time of transfer of sovereignty.
Q Aren't you going to need it when sovereignty is transferred?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's what we've said. We're willing to look at those ideas. But, again, look back at the resolutions that have already passed and provide for authority of what we are already doing in Iraq.
Q Scott, there are some conservatives who believe that there's a real crisis in the transatlantic relationship over the war on terror. You said just a minute ago that there's a difference between supporting the U.S. in the war on terror and Iraq. But you're the one --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I said let's make a distinction there. I mean, he was --
Q All right, but you guys don't make that distinction.
MR. McCLELLAN: It's the global war on terrorism --
Q Now, wait a second. The central front in the war on terror is Iraq, according to this President.
MR. McCLELLAN: And countries are contributing in many different ways in the war on terrorism. And you have more than 30 countries participating on the ground in Iraq.
Q But in the central front -- in the central front. Is not the litmus test for Spain, for instance, whether they keep troops on the ground in Iraq as to whether they're going to really cooperate in the war on terror?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, let's not prejudge things. You have a new government coming into power. The President had a very good conversation with the leader of the new government just yesterday. And the President said he looks forward to continuing to work with him in the fight against terrorism.
Now, Iraq is the central front now in the war on terrorism. The terrorists have made that very clear. They realize the stakes are very high there. The stakes are high in the war on terrorism. And advancing freedom and democracy is a key component of winning the war on terrorism. The Middle East is a very dangerous part of the world. And what we are achieving for the Iraqi people will also help bring about more stability in that part of the world. And that helps make the world a safer place and a better place.
But look, we're going to work -- we're going to work with the Spanish government in the fight against terrorism.
Q Do you think it's a litmus test?
MR. McCLELLAN: We've had a strong alliance in the past. We will continue to work together on issues of common concern.
Q But you won't say whether you consider it a litmus test, I mean --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, I've seen comments in the press. That was not something that was discussed yesterday in the phone call. And, obviously, there is discussion about the U.N. playing a role in the future. We want the U.N. to continue to play a vital role in the future. So we'll continue to talk these issues as we move forward.
Q Is the President worried that there is a view that goes beyond Spain -- and you know it -- that it's too dangerous to associate yourself with the United States in the war on terror, and that maybe there's another way to fight terrorism, aside from aligning yourself with the U.S.? How dangerous does the President think that trend is, and what does he think he can do about it?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, anyone who thinks that we are not at war only needs to look back to last Thursday, because that was a grim reminder that we are at war against terrorism. And we need to continue to stand together in this war against terrorism. Terrorists are indiscriminate in who they attack and where they attack. I mean, you just have to go back and look at the places that they've attacked previously. They've attacked in Saudi Arabia; they've attacked in Tunisia; they've attacked in Morocco; they've attacked in Turkey, in Indonesia -- certainly in the United States, as well.
So I think you need to keep that in perspective. Terrorists want to spread fear and chaos. They have no regard for innocent life. It doesn't matter who and when and where they strike, they simply want to strike and spread fear and chaos and intimidate us. And you cannot be intimidated in the face of terrorism, you must stand strong and show resolve and determination and take the fight to those terrorists.
Q You can't be afraid to be aligned with the U.S., is what you're saying.
MR. McCLELLAN: Look, in terms of, if you're talking about the U.S. -European alliance, the President has often spoken about the need for us to work together on the common challenges that we face. And the highest and most important challenge that we face together is the war on terrorism. There are a number of ways to participate in that war on terrorism, but the coalition in Iraq is strong. The coalition in the global war on terrorism is strong. And you only need to look to some of the comments that have been made in recent days to see that that coalition is very strong, and the will and resolve of the international community remains firm.
Q Just not with Spain --
Q Well, Scott, if I can follow up. Some of the comments have come from the new Spanish Prime Minister. You say you want to have a close, working relationship with him, and I wonder how that is getting off -- if it's getting off on the right foot, when he says that the Iraq war was a disaster; that Mr. Bush and Prime Minister Blair need to engage in self-criticism; and that when he's asked directly if the President had offered him a congratulatory phone call, very coolly kind of said, well, I got so many, I can't remember.
MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't seen those comments, but the President did call him, did congratulate him and they had a cordial conversation yesterday. And they talked about the importance of continuing to work together. Obviously, on his comments about Iraq, we strongly disagree. The coalition strongly disagrees. Most of the Iraqi people strongly disagree. Twenty-five million Iraqis have been liberated from a brutal and oppressive regime.
Q How do you know that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Terry's network has actually done a little bit of looking into that.
Q Yes, I don't trust -- (laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: Not that I always put my confidence in your polls. (Laughter.) The Iraqi people are realizing a brighter future, one that will be free and peaceful and democratic. And we all need to work together to continue to help the Iraqi people to realize their aspirations. We all need to work together to continue to advance the cause of freedom and democracy in the Middle East and support efforts that are already underway in the Middle East. We are sending a clear and consistent message to the terrorists by the actions that we are taking.
Q But I wonder, and I think we're all kind of wondering about the message that is being sent from the Spanish elections. You say it would be a terrible message if the terrorists were to assume that they had influenced the Spanish elections. Well, that's not a message, is it? It's a fact. The terrorists influenced the Spanish elections.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Terry, there's a lot of different analysis out there.
Q What's the other one? (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: You should look -- there's a lot of analysis about some of the way the government addressed some of the immediate -- the matters in the last few days. There's all sorts of analysis out there. I'm not the one who does the analysis of elections. But I will point out the facts. And it is the wrong message to let terrorists think that they can influence policy, that they can influence policy. Terrorists will not prevail, and we must stand together and show resolve and strength in the face of these kind of brutal attacks on innocent men, women and children. We will not be intimidated. An attack on one country is an attack on all of the civilized world. And the civilized world must continue to stand together. You simply cannot make peace with terrorists.
Q And just one more comment from European officialdom. Mr. Prodi, the EU official, said that military force is not useful in combating terrorism and that terrorism is infinitely more powerful today than it was a year ago.
MR. McCLELLAN: Terry, these threats have been building for quite some time. I think you're very well aware that terrorist attacks have been going on for some time now. And the past approach of dealing with it as a law enforcement matter is the wrong approach. It is a war. Terrorists declared war on the United States of America on September 11, 2001. It is a day this President never forgets.
And the way to make America more secure and make the world safer is to confront the dangerous new threats that we face before it's too late. And those threats come from terrorists, they come from the spread of weapons of mass destruction. And certainly the most deadly threat of this day is the combination of those two. We must continue to confront these threats before it's too late. And that's exactly what we're doing. This is a war. And the terrorists know the stakes are high in this war.
Q Scott, French President Chirac had some comments today. He called for solidarity --
MR. McCLELLAN: I was looking at David, but --
Q I know, but he didn't jump on it. (Laughter.)
Q I'll try to be faster.
Q He called for solidarity in the war against terrorism, but he also said it's essential to deal with poverty --
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't just reward people who speak up.
Q -- with other issues that breed, that provide a fertile breeding ground for terrorists. Is that the right message to be sending?
MR. McCLELLAN: It's exactly what the President of the United States is doing. We're confronting the threat of terrorism in a number of different ways. On the one hand, we're taking the offensive and taking the battle to the terrorists. On the other hand, we are working to advance freedom and democracy. We are addressing the roots of terrorism by helping people realize their aspirations, realize their hopes and dreams. And so this war is being fought on a number of different fronts.
Q What are we doing to advance democracy and to alleviate poverty in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you only have to go back and look at the greater Middle East initiative that the President has outlined to advance freedom and democracy and promote greater stability in the Middle East. You only need to look back at what the President outlined when it comes to the Middle East peace process, a two-state vision of two states living side-by-side in peace and security in the Middle East. There is no nation that has a stronger commitment to advancing freedom and democracy and addressing the roots of terrorism than the United States of America. This President has provided clear and consistent and strong leadership in that area.
Q Can you show me results?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, look at what we've done in Afghanistan and Iraq, right there -- 50 million people have been liberated; they are realizing freedom; they are realizing what democracy is all about. Democracy has taken root in both those countries and we will not turn back in our support of the efforts --
Q I don't think that's what I was talking about. I specifically talked about Egypt and Saudi Arabia. You mentioned a presidential initiative. I asked for results.
MR. McCLELLAN: And we want to support their efforts, too. There are some steps that have been taken in other countries, as well, some that you mentioned. Obviously, we'd like to continue to see more steps taken to promote freedom and democracy.
Q Scott, can I follow up on where David was taking you before? I think I've heard some internally contradictory things today. You have said that Europe is with us on terrorism, but we may have some disagreements on Iraq. You've also said --
MR. McCLELLAN: There are many European nations that are helping in Iraq.
Q That's right. You've said that Europe is with us on terrorism, maybe disagrees on Iraq, Iraq remains a central front on terrorism. And, yet, we now have the Spanish, and we didn't really hear from the leader of the Netherlands today a resounding endorsement that he would necessarily keep his troops there --
MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, I think he said we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States in the war on terrorism and with the civilized world. Obviously, they've got some political processes that they have to follow back at home.
Q And so it's not clear that they keep their troops there beyond July --
MR. McCLELLAN: The coalition in Iraq is strong. Obviously, you're going to have a transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi people at some point. And we're still discussing those issues with leaders in Iraq, about continuing to provide security as we move forward. But the United States and the coalition will stay until the job is finished and until Iraq has a free and peaceful and prosperous future.
Q Can you tell us a little bit about what the President plans to do to convince European leaders that they should take the risks that are involved? You had the Prime Minister of Spain say in his comments yesterday that you can't build a coalition together or conduct a war on a basis of lies -- obviously a statement you folks don't agree with.
Can you tell us what the President's plan is to begin to work against these kind of -- these kind of views?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the President has made the war on terrorism his highest priority for quite some time now, David.
Q The question is convincing -- convincing these leaders. I want to hear how he's going to --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you're making it sound like that that lack of support is wider spread than it is. There is a strong coalition in Iraq that is working to help the Iraqi people realize their aspirations and realize a free and peaceful future. So I disagree with the premise of the way you stated your question to some extent. It's important that we -- that we all realize that the stakes are very high in the war on terrorism. The stakes are very high in Iraq, which is the central front in the war on terrorism. And it's become clear from some of the statements made by al Qaeda, themselves, that they recognize how high the stakes are in Iraq. And that's why we must continue to stay the course. When we prevail in Iraq with freedom and democracy for the Iraqi people, we will have dealt the terrorists a significant blow in this global war.
Q Scott, by linking the war in Iraq and the war on terrorism constantly, is there any --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think the terrorists have made that link, as well.
Q No, I mean by calling Iraq the central front in the war on terrorism. I mean, that's been your line. But the question is --
MR. McCLELLAN: Not just ours, terrorists have made statements recognizing that the stakes are high there, and that that's the new battleground in the war on terrorism.
Q Well, regardless of what the terrorists are saying, in terms of --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think it's an important point to keep in mind. When we're talking about how high the stakes are, it's important to remind everyone that we must work together in this war on terrorism.
Q I don't want to start an argument about whether or not the terrorists came in after you toppled Saddam, but if you want to go down that road, but my question is specifically about the message that the Spanish elections sent and whether or not that linkage has essentially backfired, seeing as what happened in Spain -- because you had the terrorist attack, and then suddenly the guy who was against the war in Iraq won. Is there any thought here at the White House about the fact that that linkage might be hurting you in Europe and with some allies?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, you're getting into analysis of the elections. There's a lot of analysis in the post-election aftermath, and I don't know that all the analysis makes the point that you were trying to make just there. I'll leave all the analysis to others, but what we will continue to talk about is the facts. And the facts are that terrorists do not discriminate. They carry out their attacks -- their attacks to harm innocent men, women, and children. They carry out their attacks to spread fear and chaos. They carry out their attacks to shake our will and resolve. But they cannot shake our will. Our will is too strong. And they --
Q Why Spain?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, why Morocco? Why Tunisia? Why Saudi Arabia?
Q Why Spain, just before an election -- sorry, why Spain, just before an election?
MR. McCLELLAN: Why Indonesia? Terrorists carry out their attacks wherever they can, Helen. They carry out their attacks wherever they can.
Q Scott, I think you're saying -- correct me if I'm wrong -- that the President is unconcerned about the election results in Spain and the professed intentions of the new leader that he's going to pull the troops out.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think you're saying I'm saying that.
Q Well, you seem to leaving that impression. If the President is concerned, what is he doing about it?
MR. McCLELLAN: The socialist party was the one who won the elections in Spain. That was the -- that was the determination of the Spanish people. And we respect their vote. And now it is time to look at ways we can work together, continue to work together. We've always had a strong alliance with Spain. And there are many ways we can continue working together. And that's the spirit in which this President is moving forward.
Q Is he concerned about the erosion of this coalition, apparently siding with Spain?
MR. McCLELLAN: The coalition -- the coalition is very strong. I think you heard from the Polish government, which is overseeing the command of many nations and their troops in Iraq. The coalition remains very strong in their resolve and determination to help the Iraqi people move forward. Remember what the President talked about earlier. Free nations are peaceful nations. Advancing freedom and democracy is at the core of helping us win the war on terrorism, because when people have freedom, they have hope and they have opportunity to realize their full potential. And that's what we're talking about. Terrorists want to destroy that very way of life. And that's what we're up against.
Q So the President is doing nothing different or in addition, in light of the election results?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, in light of the attacks on Thursday, the President has redoubled his commitment to fighting and winning the war on terrorism and working with other -- and working with other countries to do so.
Q How has he done that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, in his commitment to continue to stay on the offensive, that's what I'm referring to.
Q Scott, how do you respond to a recent Pew poll which says that even a year after Iraq -- the Iraq war, Europeans continue to express a high level of discontent towards the United States, especially in France and Germany. Why hasn't --
MR. McCLELLAN: Europe is a number of nations, more than just one or two.
Q France and Germany, specifically, are saying --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think you look at countries like Poland, who have been under oppressive dictatorships. They certainly understand the importance of what we're trying to achieve in Iraq.
Q So how do you win over countries --
MR. McCLELLAN: The coalition -- there's a strong coalition in Iraq.
Q But how do you win --
MR. McCLELLAN: And look, I think it's important to remember that regardless of where you were prior to the war in Iraq, that now we can all work together to help the Iraqi people realize a better future. The United Nations recognizes the importance of helping to move forward on freedom and democracy in Iraq. There is a strong coalition of countries that recognizes the importance of what we are trying to help the Iraqi people achieve.
Q But we're looking at public opinion -- the case of what France and Germany -- how do you get those people in France and Germany to think better about us a year later?
MR. McCLELLAN: We are continuing to move forward on the war on terrorism. I'm not going to sit here and get into every single poll, Richard, that you want to bring up. Obviously, it's important for people to look at the attacks that have been carried out across the world. This is a war on terrorism. The terrorists recognize how high the stakes are. And we must continue to remain united in our resolve and determination to bring them to justice before they can carry out these kinds of attacks on innocent men, women and children.
Q Scott, two questions. One, I had a chance yesterday to see the "Osama" movie at the State Department's foreign press center. Can you confirm if President Bush saw this movie? And also, at the same time --
MR. McCLELLAN: The movie, "Osama"?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, and he's talked publicly about what a powerful film that is.
Q Now, the question is, on this movie, since Secretary of State, Mr. Powell, is in Afghanistan now, this movie is showing still poverty, these people are living in fear, and also Taliban is there. And we understand now, of course, Afghanistan was freed and people are living freely, from the fear of Taliban.
But the question is poverty still is in Afghanistan now. People are living -- they're still in fear of Taliban back from across the border from Pakistan. How do we make sure the people do not feel that what happened in the '80s with Afghanistan, now they can depend on the United States as far as poverty and fear of -- living and not under the fear of Taliban?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we've been talking about Iraq some, we've been talking about Afghanistan, both countries; there are some 50 million people, altogether, who have been liberated from oppressive regimes that had no regard for their people. They only had regard for promoting themselves and advancing their own oppressive regimes. And I think it's important to keep in mind that this President's number one obligation is to protect the American people. We've been having a discussion here about some issues; this President knows that his highest responsibility is the safety and security of the American people.
The actions that we are taking when it comes to our national security are making the world a safer place; they're making America more secure; they're also making the world a better place. We are confronting dangerous new threats before it's too late. That's what September 11th taught us, that we cannot treat it just as a law enforcement matter. We cannot wait, before it's too late, before it's imminent, and then act. At that point, it's too late. We are also working to advance freedom and democracy, for the very reason that the President has often talked about: Free nations are peaceful nations. And this administration is providing clear and consistent leadership in these challenging times. We're helping to lead the world; to make the world not only safer, but make it better. And America is more secure because of the actions of this President.
Q Scott, what is the President doing this afternoon?
MR. McCLELLAN: He's got an awards ceremony for science and math students. He tends to have policy briefings and discussions with staff. I didn't bring the remainder of the schedule out here with me.
Q Is he having any chats with the 9/11 Commission at all today?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, no.
Q And, also, is Tony Blair coming to the ranch sometime soon?
MR. McCLELLAN: As you know, we always keep you posted if there are any updates to the schedule.
Q Well, I thought you might make an exception.
MR. McCLELLAN: No. Nice try. (Laughter.)
Q Has he spoken with Blair since last Thursday?
MR. McCLELLAN: As you know, he stays in close contact with Prime Minister Blair. We don't always read those calls out.
Q Thank you.
Q That sounded like a "yes."
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you know he talks to Prime Minister Blair on pretty much a weekly basis, if not more often.
Q Saudi Arabian authorities have killed a man they say is the head of the al Qaeda operations on the Arabian Peninsula. Since the al Qaeda has such a strong presence in Saudi Arabia, is the President satisfied that the Saudis are doing enough to fight terrorism?
MR. McCLELLAN: We're working together to fight terrorism. And we appreciate Saudi Arabia's efforts. They are a strong partner in the global war on terrorism. Saudi Arabia recognized the threat posed by terrorists on their own soil. They saw how atrocious these attacks on innocent men, women and children are. And so we are working together, in strong partnership, in the war on terrorism.
Q On the missionaries who were killed in Iraq, does the President have any special message to them? Does he think that these type of people should continue to risk their lives in Iraq?
MR. McCLELLAN: Obviously, they were there to help the Iraqi people realize a better future. And our thoughts and prayers are certainly with their families. This was a terrible tragedy, and they remain in our thoughts and prayers. And we are certainly grateful for all the efforts that they made to help the Iraqi people move forward on a better future.
Q Would he encourage other missionaries to continue this type of practice?
MR. McCLELLAN: There are many people, from many different countries, that are providing humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people and helping in Iraq. And security is a very high priority for the Iraqi people for the coalition. And we continue to work together to improve the security situation in Iraq.
Q Just one quickly on Korea. Has South Korea weakened its commitment at all to the war on terrorism because of the --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think you heard comments from South Korea last week, that they remain strongly committed to working with the international community on our common challenges.
Q -- the impeachment?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q Was that after --
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. Go ahead.
Q I'd like to follow up on a question I asked about six weeks ago, about Saddam's oil for influence program. There's a list of 270 government officials, companies, journalists and political parties who allegedly received oil vouchers in violation of U.N. sanctions. Is the United States going to confront foreign leaders -- and I can name them: Jacques Chirac, Vladimir Putin and Kofi Annan -- about this? Even the New York Times has written about this, so it is newsy, the widespread corruption within the U.N. Oil for Food program.
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't have any -- I haven't checked on any updates since you brought this question up last time, Jeff. I recognize the stories that have been out there, but I've not checked on any update on that matter.
Q You know of no action by the administration on that stuff?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I just haven't checked on any update on that situation, Terry.
Q Scott, in Albany, New York, where he went to testify against same-sex marriage, Brooklyn's Catholic Bishop, Nicholas DiMarzio, noted what he called the absurdity of same-sex and polygamist marriage. And he asked this question, "Why can't we have marriages between people and pets," for which he was denounced by Democrat State Senator Thomas Duane.
MR. McCLELLAN: Can we get to a question here?
Q Yes. It's the first of two. (Laughter.) Does the President believe that Bishop DiMarzio should have been denounced by Senator Duane because of this Bishop's opposition to marriages of bestiality, polygamy and sodomy?
MR. McCLELLAN: Les, I'm simply not familiar with the specifics of what he said. I know what the President's views are when it comes to the sanctity of marriage. And he's made them very clear.
Q So he would agree with the Bishop?
MR. McCLELLAN: Les, I'm not familiar with the specifics of what was said.
Q The Washington Times cartoonist Garner this morning compared Senator Kerry's claim to have met foreign leaders, whom he refuses to identify, as comparable to Al Gore's claim of playing the lead role in creating the Internet and Clinton's claim to remember black churches burning in Arkansas when none were burned.
And my question, would the President disagree with this comparison? And will he agree to any more than the three traditional debates with Kerry, who left Al Sharpton out in his debate --
MR. McCLELLAN: You said you had two questions. You just worked two more questions into that one question.
Q That's kind of like the front row --
MR. McCLELLAN: And I think the campaign has addressed the latter one. In terms of the former, I think I talked a little bit about this earlier this morning. But what we're seeing is part of a pattern. This is not the first time that Senator Kerry has made claims and refused to back them up. The President spoke earlier, when he was asked about this issue, and said the American people should expect people who are running for President to back up their claims. And that's all that we are asking.
Q Will he debate more than the traditional --
MR. McCLELLAN: The campaign has addressed that issue. They put out a statement last week on that.
Q Can I follow that up? Is the President now in favor of betraying confidences of conversations that people have in confidence with foreign leaders?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's making a lot of assumptions, one, Mark. I mean, Senator Kerry has said that he met with foreign leaders and that he's heard from those leaders, and, yet, he refused to back up that claim. And that's why, yesterday, I said that it's either one of two things: Either he can back up those claims and say who it is, or he is simply making it up to attack the President of the United States. And that would be very unfortunate if that is the case. But this goes to an issue of credibility; it goes to an issue of being straight with the American people.
And, certainly, if you're talking about foreign policy in this manner -- and this could be an important foreign policy matter -- if Senator Kerry has information that could affect our relations, or our policies regarding another country, then it should be shared with the American people, and it should be shared with the government.
Q Even if it was a private conversation, he should make it public?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you're making assumptions there. One, I mean, he --
Q No, I'm not. I'm asking --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- he has refused to back up his claim. So I think you are making assumptions there. He has said that he met with and heard from leaders, but he has refused to back those claims up. And it is an issue of credibility and straight talk with the American people.
Q Doesn't the President of the United States have conversations with foreign leaders that you don't read out from here?
MR. McCLELLAN: You know when he meets with foreign leaders, David.
Q If it was a private conversation, why did he even bring it up, if it was so private?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q Why did Kerry bring it up if it was private?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, no, that's going to the issue here; he makes a claim, but he refuses to back it up. This is not the first time that he has done that. It is part of a pattern. Senator Kerry has made claims both on the foreign policy and domestic front that he has refused to back up. And if you're going to make those kind of claims, the American people ought to be able to know on what basis you make those claims.
END 1:46 P.M. EST