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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 9, 2004

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

Press Briefing


1:03 P.M. EST

MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon. I don't have anything to begin with. So let's go straight to your questions.

Q Has the President agreed to take as much time as is necessary to answer the questions of the 9/11 Commission?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Bill, a couple things. One, I would like to start off, before I get to that specific question, and just talk about the unprecedented cooperation that this administration has provided to the 9/11 Commission, which is a legislative --

Q How do you know it's unprecedented?

MR. McCLELLAN: -- which is a legislative body. And I think you can look at the facts, Helen, and I'm going to get to a couple of those in just a second, if you'll let me. We have worked closely and cooperatively with the commission. We have worked in a spirit of cooperation with the commission. The President strongly supports the work of the commission. If there is something we can do in addition to all the steps that we are already taking to prevent something like September 11th from ever happening again, we want to know about it, and the sooner, the better.

That's why this administration has provided more than 2 million pages of documents to the commission; provided more than 60 compact disks of radar, flight, and other information; more than 800 audio cassette tapes of interviews and other materials; more than 100 briefings, including at the head-of-agency level; and more than 560 interviews. We have bent over backwards to make sure that the commission has all the information they need to do their job. The commission chairman, himself, has stated that there is not a single piece of information that they have asked for that we have not provided the commission access to.

Obviously, as part of this, the President will be meeting with the chairman and vice chairman at some point in the near future. We are still working on the exact time of that meeting. We have discussed with the commission what we believe is a reasonable period of time to provide the chairman and vice chairman with answers to all of their questions.

Q Is that the one-hour time frame?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's what I'm referring to. And let me put this in perspective, though. I think, one, keep in mind, you're talking about a sitting President of the United States. It's extraordinary for a sitting President of the United States to sit down with the legislative body like the 9/11 Commission. But the President is pleased to do it. Certainly a sitting President has many great responsibilities to tend to; none more important for this President than acting to prevent attacks like September 11th from ever happening again on American soil.

The commission has already had access to all the documents and information they have requested, including our most sensitive national security documents. The commission has already visited with numerous White House staffers and administration officials. The commission is also looking at this in a larger context. The commission is looking at how these threats materialized over a period of years leading up to September 11th. We are talking about a period of seven or eight months, for this administration. So I think many of their questions have already been asked and answered.

But the President believes their work is very important. It's important to our efforts to prevent these type of attacks from happening again on American soil. And so he's pleased to sit down with them and visit with them. And we believe that -- obviously, you have to set parameters when you're talking about a sitting President of the United States. And we believe we've set aside a reasonable period of time. But the President intends to answer all their questions.

Q Even if it takes more than the assigned amount of time?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let's let the meeting take place. I mean, again, I think you have to set certain parameters. And you look at a reasonable period of time. Given all the information I just talked to you about, all the information they've had access to, all the administration officials they've already visited with, many of their questions have already been asked and answered. So now -- this is not the beginning of the process, they've been at work for quite some time now. And they're coming to a period where they're entering the final stages of their work.

Q Just one more thing. The President, as you say, is very busy and has many responsibilities. However, the President does have time on his schedule when he has time to himself, has time to relax, has time -- as Senator Kerry pointed out -- to go to a rodeo. Why would one hour be the maximum amount of time that you would schedule for --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think, for the reasons I just walked you through, it's a reasonable period of time to set aside for a sitting President of the United States. Obviously, the President strongly supports the work of the commission, and that's evidenced by the kind of cooperation we've provided to the commission.

But, again, there are some important principles involved when you're talking about a legislative body interacting with the executive branch. But the work of the commission is very important to this nation, and the President strongly supports the work of the commission. That's why he's more than happy to sit down and visit with the commission, and he looks forward to the meeting.

Q Scott, why won't the President sit before the full panel? What is the idea, what is the thinking behind that? And is there any reconsideration of Dr. Rice publicly testifying?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, in terms of sitting down with the entire commission, I mean, we've already discussed -- the letter originally came from the chairman and vice chairman. There have been a number -- as I said, numerous meetings with White House officials -- you mentioned one -- and with administration officials. And there's not a single commissioner that has sat down and participated in any interview.

Dr. Rice -- you mentioned Dr. Rice -- Dr. Rice sat down, was scheduled for I believe a two-hour interview -- sat down for I think it was more than four hours that she actually visited with the commission. She was more than happy to visit with the commission. Only five members actually showed up, despite the fact that it was scheduled for the entire commission. You had another national security official under Dr. Rice who met with the commission and I think only four showed up.

Obviously, these are issues you discuss with the commission, but the commissioners depend on others to provide them with the information they need. And we believe that in this setting we can provide them with the information they need from the President of the United States. And we have great confidence in the ability of the chairman and vice chairman to share that information with the rest of the commission.

Q So you're saying you're concerned about attendance, that that's the reason why he won't sit down --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm pointing out past practice. I think you need to keep that in context for your reporting. But I'm saying that we have great confidence in the chairman and vice chairman to be able to share that information with the rest of the commission, as other members have done in other interviews.

Q And is there any reconsideration about Dr. Rice testifying publicly?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, obviously, if there are additional meetings scheduled with the commission we would keep you posted on that. Again, this is not her personal preference; this goes back to a matter of principle. There is a separation of powers issue involved here. Historically, White House staffers do not testify before legislative bodies. So it's a matter of principle, not a matter of preference. But she was more than happy to sit down and visit with the commission at length, and answer all their questions.

Q Scott, this morning you suggested this was a -- you said this was a period covering seven or eight months, as opposed to seven or eight years. Do you mean that an interview with, let's say, President Clinton should take longer because he was in office for a longer period of time and, perhaps, there are more events that took place during that time than, perhaps, say, an interview that would take place with President Bush?

MR. McCLELLAN: Certainly, the threat from terrorism did not happen overnight. It is a threat that has been building for quite some time. You can go back to previous attacks or attempted attacks on Americans, whether it was in America or elsewhere -- I mean, the World Trade Center attack in 1993 -- these threats have been building for quite some time. I'm pointing out the reality that September 11th is something the President of the United States will never forget. September 11th taught us that we must confront threats before it's too late. And that's exactly what this President is doing. This President is acting to take the offensive and take the fight to the enemy, to bring them to justice before they can carry out their attacks on Americans or on American soil.

Q What does that statement mean, when you said this is seven or eight months, as opposed to seven or eight years?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that these threats -- like I said, these threats have been building for quite some time, and they didn't happen overnight. I'm putting that in context. I think it's important to keep this in context. And obviously, September 11th happened a short time after this administration came into office. But it taught us some very important lessons, and we have made significant strides in acting to prevent something like this from ever happening again. And there's obviously more to do and we continue to take additional steps to win the war on terrorism and protect the homeland.

Q If what you say is true about cooperation, why is it that every day we read complaints from the commission that you're not really playing ball at all?

MR. McCLELLAN: Let's see, let me read from the commission, Chairman Kean, on February 27, 2004, in an interview with CNN: "We have gotten a lot of cooperation from the President. This is one of the first Presidents to agree to an interview. Even during the Kennedy Commission, Lyndon Johnson wouldn't give them an interview. From day one, when they helped us get our clearances expedited, they have been helpful.

And let me stop there for a second. We have been working to make sure that the commission has all the information they need to do their job, and to make sure --

Q Everything they asked for?

MR. McCLELLAN: And to make sure they have it in a timely manner. Their work is very important. The President strongly supports their work. Let me continue --

Q Well, what's the fight about?

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me continue, let me continue. The chairman of the commission: "We have now seen the most secret documents in the possession of the United States government. No congressional committee has seen those kinds of documents. We have seen them." Then he goes on to say, "There hasn't been a single thing we have asked for that some members of the staff haven't seen. Not a single person has refused to be interviewed." I think that's pretty powerful statements there --

Q Well, what's the problem now?

MR. McCLELLAN: -- by the chairman of the commission, Helen.

Q What do you think is the cause?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm pointing out the facts to you. I think it's important to look at the facts.

Q You're pointing out the facts, but you have not explained the controversy that we read every day --

MR. McCLELLAN: What controversy?

Q Yes, every day we read there --

MR. McCLELLAN: Where? Yes, but who --

Q -- are complaints you're not --

MR. McCLELLAN: Tell me a specific report, and I'll be glad to talk to you about it.

Q Every day --

MR. McCLELLAN: I just pointed out the kind of cooperation we're providing to the commission.

Q The very fact that you have to go into the big defense every day.

MR. McCLELLAN: I think you should look beyond some of the reporting and look at the facts.

Q Scott, this morning you were talking about -- you said that the President will answer all the commission's questions. There seems to be a change in tone, when this afternoon you're saying that one hour is a reasonable period of time.

MR. McCLELLAN: Everything I said from this podium here, this afternoon, is consistent with what I was saying earlier today.

Q Well, now you're emphasizing that one hour is a reasonable period of time.

MR. McCLELLAN: I've said that before.

Q Right, but this morning you were talking primarily about -- you said over and over again, the President will answer all questions asked --

MR. McCLELLAN: And, of course. I want to make that point. Obviously, the President is going to answer all the questions that they want to raise.

Q And even if that --

MR. McCLELLAN: But many of their questions have already been asked and answered.

Q Even if that runs over the allotted period of time?

MR. McCLELLAN: Nobody is watching the clock, Terry. But again, there is a reasonable period of time that has been set aside for this meeting.

Q Just to nail it down --

MR. McCLELLAN: Terry two, or Terry one. Okay, Terry one.

Q It's on the schedule for an hour --

MR. McCLELLAN: And believe me, you can answer a lot of questions in one hour.

Q Well, it's a pretty big event in our nation's history.


Q And there might be a lot of questions to ask. So he's got an hour on the schedule, but you're telling us he's willing to answer all the questions that they might --

MR. McCLELLAN: But many of the questions have already been asked and answered at this point in their investigation, in the commission's work. But the President --

Q Nobody is going to watch the clock, it could run --

MR. McCLELLAN: That's right, nobody is watching a clock.

Q If I could just pick up on Norah's question here on the relative burden, if you will, in the investigation -- the previous eight years or more and the months that this administration was in office. Can you tell us, to what degree, if any, does the President believe he is responsible in having run the government for those months, in perhaps not doing enough to foresee and to prevent this?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's what the commission is looking into. But, again, I mean, I think it's clear that these threats didn't happen overnight. These threats have been building for quite some time. Terrorists declared war on September 11th, when they carried out those horrific and tragic attacks on September 11th. And the President of the United States will never forget that day. And I think that's evidenced by the way he has acted since September 11th. This President's highest responsibility is to protect the American people. This President has acted on many fronts to prevent an attack like this from happening ever again.

The President is leading a global war on terrorism by taking the offensive and taking the fight to the enemy. We are working with others to confront the most deadly threat of our time, the possibility of terrorists getting weapons of mass destruction. We are working with other nations to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction. The war on terrorism is being fought on many fronts. It's being fought on a financial front; it's being fought on the law enforcement front; it's being fought on the military front, as I just mentioned; and it's being fought on the home front, with our first responders and others who are involved in preparing us in case another attack does happen on our soil.

Q There's no question that that attack, the 9/11 attack was a surprise and dastardly attack that caught the nation off-guard. But in this review of what we might have done that we didn't, does the President believe there is something that his administration ought to have been doing before 9/11?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, let's let the commission do their work. Like I said, he's looking at this from what we are doing to prevent something like this from ever happening again. And we've made significant strides in preventing something like September 11th from ever happening again.

We are dismantling and disrupting the al Qaeda terrorist network. We have already brought to justice in one form or fashion some two-thirds of the al Qaeda leadership. We are continuing to take the fight to the enemy. We are continuing to make sure that we are improving our sharing of intelligence, not only within the United States, but with other governments. We are continuing to work to make sure that we're sharing information between law enforcement agencies, not only in the United States, but across the world. We're continuing to take steps to crack down on terrorist financing. The Department of Treasury just had an important announcement yesterday on some of our efforts to crack down on terrorist financing.

This is a global war on terrorism. This President has made it the highest priority of this administration. And if -- if there is something additional that we can be doing to prevent an attack like September 11th from happening, we want to know about that information. But look at what we're already doing.

Q Scott, do you believe that --

MR. McCLELLAN: Wait, wait, you've already had questions. Now we're going back and forth on the front row. There's --

Q I just have a quick one to follow on.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- rows back there. Quick one.

Q Do you believe that the legitimacy of the 9/11 Commission's report will be challenged by the fact that this is released during the Democratic Convention? Or do you think that the Democrats will sort of soil the legitimacy of this report in some way, because it's released around the time of the Democratic National Convention?

MR. McCLELLAN: You're asking me to speculate about what others may do in the context of an election year?

Q Well, it's released around, you know, the time that they're nominating their presidential candidate.

MR. McCLELLAN: I'd certainly hope that people don't politicize it. This is too important to become politicized.

Q The change in tone to, "nobody is watching the clock," is that in response to the criticism from Senator Kerry yesterday?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I don't think he's someone who lets the facts get in the way of his campaign. I think I've made it very clear, the type of unprecedented cooperation this commission -- this administration is providing to the commission.

Q But you are changing the tone the day after his criticism.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I was asked a question earlier this morning, and I'm repeating what we have previously said.

Q Scott, speaking of Senator Kerry, he's targeting a certain group of Americans, African Americans, to try to appeal to them with quotes saying, "President Clinton was often known as the first black President. I wouldn't be upset if I could earn the right to be the second." He says, "It's a question of keeping faith with the community and doing things that really make a difference." How important is the African American vote to this administration and to this 2004 election?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President is going to reach out to all Americans, from all backgrounds. I think if you look at the actions that this President has taken, they are actions that are helping to improve the quality of life for all Americans. And I start with the economy, on the domestic front. Well, I should back up. I start with the actions we've taken to protect the homeland and win the war on terrorism. That's first and foremost. That's the highest responsibility of this President. But this President has acted to create an environment for job creation and sustained economic growth. We came into office and we inherited a recession. But we took action, and we got us out of a recession by the actions that we took.

I would also point to other initiatives that this administration is doing. This President is focused on getting things done to improve the lives of the American -- of all Americans. We have taken -- one of the first actions we took was to pass historic education reforms. The President often refers to that as the new civil right. We believe every child can learn and succeed. We have hope in every child. And that's why we're setting high standards and holding people accountable for results. We're not -- we are no longer shuffling children through the system. We are looking at what they are learning and how they are learning.

We've also acted to help all seniors, by strengthening Medicare and providing them with prescription drug coverage, which they did not have access to previously. We've worked to close the minority homeownership gap. You've heard the President talk about that. We've worked to reach out to faith-based groups that have a proven record of helping people in need. So there are many initiatives that we have taken, and we will continue reaching out to all Americans, based on the President's record and based on his vision for the future.

Q Well, what does the White House feel about the quote from Kerry that he wants to be considered the second black President, especially as the White House, this White House, is not seen as being a friend --

MR. McCLELLAN: I think some people have already spoken to that, and I'll leave questions like that to our campaign. We have a campaign office in place for that very reason.

Q In a couple days the President is going to be attending a groundbreaking ceremony for a 9/11 memorial in Long Island. A couple of hours after that, he's going to be at a fundraiser just a short distance away, raising money for his campaign. Is there any concern that the juxtaposition of those two events, the proximity, the close proximity in both time and distance will create at least the appearance of the President using 9/11 for political reasons?

MR. McCLELLAN: September 11th was a tragic and defining moment for our nation. And the President is honored to accept the invitation of the Nassau County 9/11 Memorial Foundation to attend the groundbreaking of their September 11th memorial. This was an invitation that was extended to the President in mid-February. The President is honored to accept the invitation and pay tribute to those who tragically lost their lives on that September day.

The President never forgets September 11th. The President remembers it every, single day. He has met with many families over the course of the last few years and helped to console them and grieve with them. This President is honored to pay tribute to those who tragically lost their lives, this Thursday.

Q There's no sense that it's just even a little bit awkward to be combining on the same afternoon a fundraiser and a 9/11 memorial -- related to criticism --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, Ken, he was invited by the Nassau County 9/11 Memorial Foundation and he's honored to accept the invitation.

Q Scott, on Greece, any comment on the newly-elected Prime Minister of Greece, Kostas Simitis?

MR. McCLELLAN: Sure. The President will probably have a statement on this soon, to congratulate the new Prime Minister, himself -- or the Prime Minister-elect, I should say. The United States congratulates the Prime Minister-elect and his New Democracy Party on their victory in Greece's parliamentary election this past Sunday. The United States, as you are aware, enjoys a partnership with Greece, the birthplace of democracy -- a partnership in pursuit of freedom, prosperity and peace in southeastern Europe and the Middle East.

And we look forward to deepening our cooperation with Greece and with the Prime Minister-elect's new government on key issues, such as forging a Cypress settlement by May 1, security for this summer's Olympics in Athens, and regional stability.

Q Did President Bush send any letter or any message to Mr. Simitis?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, I think that we'll have more from the President later today.

Q Scott, two quick questions. Do you have any comments on the reports that there are now Austria-based IAEA officials and the diplomats said there that when A.Q. Khan was blamed for transferring nuclear technology to rogue nations, but according to those officials and diplomats, the Pakistani officials knew of it. If the reports and officials are true, what you think the President would feel about it?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, I think we've been through this recently. The government of Pakistan has taken important steps to break up this network. We are continuing to learn more about this network of proliferation. And we are continuing to take steps to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction. I talked about how that is a very important priority within our global war on terrorism. We are working through the Proliferation Security Initiative with other nations. The President recently talked about some other steps that we are taking to confront the spread of weapons of mass destruction and make sure those weapons do not get into the hands of those terrorists who seek to do mass harm to America.

Q On the economy. A lot of small businesses are hurting here and the economy they are saying is bad because, one, they have slots -- thousands of employers, they have slots, but they cannot hire because millions of employees here or workers are illegal. And, two, H1 visa used to be 195, and now they have been reduced to 65, and they are already filled. And those employers need those H1B and other workers, they cannot fill their jobs.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President's previously talked about his views on those visas. We are also working on a new temporary worker program to address an economic need and to address a need of compassion, to have a more humane migration policy.

Q Scott, Ambassador Zoellick testified on the Hill today. I wondered if you could talk to me about what the White House sees as the economic benefits of outsourcing, or do you simply see it as a right of American business under the free enterprise system?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you heard the President of the United States talk earlier today about the last thing we need to do is to retreat into economic isolationism. That would hurt our economy. Our economy is moving in the right direction. New jobs are being created; 364,000 jobs in the last six months, I believe it is, have been created. The economy is moving in the right direction because of the policies that this President has taken and the policies that he is advocating.

One part of continuing to build upon the steps that we have taken is to open markets globally. And that's why the President is aggressively working to expand trade and make sure that there is a level playing field. We live in a changing economy and it's important that we make sure that workers also have the skills they need to fill the high-paying, high-skilled jobs of the 21st century. There are a lot of high-growth sectors within the economy and we need to make sure that workers are prepared to fill those jobs.

Because of the actions that -- and I would remind you that American workers are the most -- are the best in the world. They can compete with anyone, anywhere, as long as there is a level playing field. But trade, free and fair trade is important to economic growth here in America. The President is focused on creating jobs here in America and making sure that workers are prepared for the jobs that are available in the 21st century. Foreign companies are coming to America to --

Q I'll stipulate that --

MR. McCLELLAN: Hang on. Foreign companies are coming to America because they know that American workers are the best in the world. And they're coming here and creating jobs. We have an environment that is leading to more robust job creation, but there's more that we need to do. The President is not satisfied because people are still looking for work and they cannot find a job.

Q I'm asking about specifics. Does the President believe outsourcing lowers consumer prices? Does the President believe outsourcing frees American workers to explore other avenues of technology, better-paying avenues of technology?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think I've addressed his views -- he's addressed his views. And you have to look at this from the context of creating as robust an environment as possible for job creation, and look at it in that context. The President is focused on creating jobs here at home. The President is focused on making sure that we have sustained economic growth. And one way of doing that is expanding trade, but making sure that we have a level playing field.

So he's focused on creating jobs here at home, and I think I just talked about some of the benefits of free and fair trade. But the last thing we need to do is retreat into economic isolationism, and you heard directly from the President earlier today on that very issue.

Go ahead, Holly.

Q I want to follow up on that language, "economic isolationism," because it's pretty strong language for people who are advocating anti-trade measures. But, yet, the President has sparked trade wars in the past by putting tariffs on foreign steel and Chinese bras. And he's also lost several WTO cases --

MR. McCLELLAN: When there are unfair trade practices this President will act. And he will enforce our trade laws.

Q But in those cases he was just protecting unfair trade practices?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think we answered the reasons he made those

decisions, and because of the economic needs.

Q So is he an economic isolationist in some cases? (Laughter.)

MR. McCLELLAN: Do you have a question within that? I think he addressed his views earlier. He's addressed his views. His views are very well-known, Holly. I don't know where you're getting that from, because this President has been a strong advocate of free trade with a level playing field. And this President is also strongly committed to enforcing our trade laws and taking action when necessary to make sure that those laws are fair.

Q New topic. Did the White House have any input in the release of the British detainees from Guantanamo? And was this done as a favor to Prime Minister Blair and the British people?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think that the Pentagon put out a statement earlier on this. They addressed it, and I'd refer you back to those. We had extensive discussions with the British government on these individuals, and the British government has assured us that they will make sure that these individuals do not pose a future threat to America, or to our friends and allies. And the Pentagon put out a statement on this earlier today, as the British government came to pick up those individuals at Guantanamo Bay.

Q North Korea is now saying it will give up its nuclear weapons if the U.S. pulls its forces out of South Korea. Since that pull-out is part of the Pentagon's transformation, is this just a face-saving demand? Does the administration believe it has won and forced North Korea to give up its nukes?

MR. McCLELLAN: North Korea knows what it needs to do. North Korea needs to commit to ending its nuclear weapons program in a verifiable and irreversible way. We are making progress in the multilateral talks. There are five nations that are united in their desire for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, and the complete, irreversible and verifiable end of North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

Now, while we're making progress by having these discussions, North Korea remains the one that is continuing to slow further progress. We've made our views very well-known. We're pursuing a peaceful diplomatic solution. We've already talked about how we're prepared to provide security assurances to North Korea, but they first need to act in the way that I just mentioned.

Q A couple of follow-ups on Ken's earlier line of questioning. You mentioned that the President received this invitation for this dedication in mid-February. When was the decision made for the fundraiser to follow that?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think the reception was planned back in January.

Q So there's no feeling at all of an image problem in having a fundraising event after what you portray to be, and what is, a solemn ceremony for 9/11?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President was invited to attend it. He's the President of the United States, Peter, and he is going to honor those who tragically lost their lives and pay tribute to them.

Q I understand that, obviously. But, again, the idea of a fundraiser right after that --

MR. McCLELLAN: He has met with many of the families -- he has attended memorials before, and he will continue to attend memorials --

Q I understand those are your talking points, Scott.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- for the reasons I stated. No, this is the President's views. The President never forgets the events of September 11th. They taught us important lessons, and he remembers those events every single day.

Q Well, forgive me, but it would also seem like he never forgets the need for a fundraiser.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I'm not even going to dignify that with a response.

Go ahead, Jeff.

Q Thank you. First of all, I hope the grand jury didn't force you to turn over the wedding card I sent to you and your wife. (Laughter.) Do you see any hypocrisy in the controversy about the President's mention of 9/11 in his ads, when Democratic icon Franklin Delano Roosevelt's campaign issued this button, that says, "Remember Pearl Harbor"? I have a visual aid for folks watching at home.

MR. McCLELLAN: You're pointing out some historical facts. Obviously, Pearl Harbor was a defining moment back in the period of World War II, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt was strongly committed to winning World War II and talked about it frequently.

Q So you think it certainly is valid that the President does talk about it and --

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, he addressed this this weekend, when he was first asked about it. September 11th was a defining moment for our nation. We all shared in that experience. And it's important that we look at how we lead in a post-September 11th world. And that's an important discussion to have with the American people, and to talk about the differences in approaches to winning the war on terrorism and preventing attacks from happening in the first place.

Q Scott, two questions. First about your predecessor, Ari Fleischer. There's a report in Roll Call --

MR. McCLELLAN: He's a good man. I learned a lot from him.

Q Well, there's a report in Roll Call this week saying that he has set up a consulting firm on K Street to help corporations navigate the political channels in Washington.

MR. McCLELLAN: I thought you were going to ask about the book he's writing about the relationships with the media.

Q The question I had, actually, this report says that he's charging corporations $30,000 a month, and he's demanding a two-year contract. And I'm wondering if you have ever been tempted to bail from this and attracted to the lucre that --

MR. McCLELLAN: Have I ever been tempted to bail from this? Just about every day, Russell. (Laughter.) But I have no future plans, at this point.

Q My second question is, on public corruption. There seems to be an uptick in public corruption cases. These are public officials who are charged with wrongdoing -- Governor Rowland and a bunch of public officials in Connecticut; and in Austin, Texas, there's a grand jury that, for a number of months now, has been issuing subpoenas. They're looking at corporate money that went from a PAC controlled by Tom DeLay to state legislative house races in Texas. And according to press reports it's implicating the Speaker of the Texas House, Tom Craddick, and it might -- they're also looking at the money coming from Tom DeLay. The question is, is this on the President's radar screen, public corruption? And what is he --

MR. McCLELLAN: I think it's evidenced by his actions, in terms of what we're doing to crack down on corporate wrongdoing, and --

Q That's corporate wrongdoing. This is a separate thing.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- what we're doing with other nations to fight corruption. This President is strongly committed to fighting corruption. But in terms of a specific case in the state of Texas, I mean, that's a legal matter going on in the state of Texas. You need to direct your questions elsewhere. I don't know the specifics of that case.

Suzanne, go ahead.

Q Scott, on another matter, former chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix gives his own interpretation leading up to the war, particularly the role of the U.N. He says in his book, "Disarming Iraq," -- quote -- "Perhaps Blair and Bush, both religious men, felt strengthened in their political determination by the feeling they were fighting evil, not only proliferation. In the absence of finding weapons of mass destruction in occupied Iraq, the two leaders have since, not surprisingly, focused on the terror argument, about which they may have felt strongly, but did not much rely on before the armed action." Is there any response?

MR. McCLELLAN: I continue to stick to my practice of not doing book reviews from this podium. Maybe, though, Mr. Blix felt that we could trust in the good intentions of Saddam Hussein. The President knows that we could not afford to trust in the good intentions of a madman, given his history. The choice was Saddam Hussein's to make, and he chose continued defiance. And I would refer you back to UNMOVIC's last report, when they talked about the unaccounted for biological weapons.


END 1:37 P.M. EST

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