For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 29, 2004
Press Briefing by
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
2:23 P.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon. The President was pleased to sit
down with the 9/11 Commission earlier today. The President believes
the 9/11 Commission's work is very important to helping us win the war
on terrorism. It is extraordinary for a sitting President of the
United States to sit down with a legislatively created commission. But
the circumstances are extraordinary. And that is why the President
felt it was important to meet with members of the 9/11 Commission.
The meeting was an opportunity for the President to discuss the
seriousness with which we took the threat from al Qaeda, the steps we
were taking to confront it, and the actions we have taken to respond to
the horrific attacks of September the 11th. September 11th changed the
equation when it comes to confronting the threat from terrorism. The
President believes the most important lesson of September 11th is that
we must confront threats before it is too late. That is why we are on
the offensive and taking decisive action to win the war on terrorism.
The best way to win the war on terrorism is to go after the terrorists
and bring them to justice, before they can carry out their attacks.
We have also taken significant steps to better secure the homeland
and be prepared to respond in the event of an attack. We worked to
create the Department of Homeland Security, the largest reorganization
in some 50 years of government. We worked to pass the Patriot Act, to
provide law enforcement with vital tools to prevent attacks from
happening in the first place. That is also why we worked to create the
Terrorist Threat Integration Center, to improve our intelligence
sharing and analysis. The administration has provided the 9/11
Commission unprecedented access to information, including our nation's
most sensitive national security documents. We have provided the
commission with more than 2 million pages of documents and hundreds of
briefings and interviews with administration officials. The President
very much appreciates the important work of the 9/11 Commission. He
looks forward to seeing their report and recommendations.
And with that, I'll be glad to take your questions.
Q Scott, what was the President's goal here in terms of
explaining to the commission how this administration saw the threat
from al Qaeda prior to 9/11?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think, John, his goal was the goal of the
commission, and many other people, and that is to make sure that we
learn the lessons of September 11th, and to make sure that we are
taking all the steps necessary to protect the American people and win
the war on terrorism. And we have taken significant steps since
September 11th. But if the commission has additional recommendations
on ways to better protect the homeland and win the war on terrorism,
this President wants to see them as soon as possible.
Q Was the President's position, before the commission, that the
administration had done all it could to respond to the threat from al
Qaeda, that it took the threat seriously?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, look, I think -- I think the President talked
about this in his news conference. Looking back, he wishes we had had
certain things in place. He wishes we had had the Department of
Homeland Security in place prior to September 11th; he wishes that we
had had the Patriot Act in place; and he wishes that we were in a
position to better share the intelligence information that we had.
This is something that happened on his watch, and he very much supports
the work of the commission and wants to see their report and see their
recommendations and act on those recommendations.
Q Did the commission -- did the commission --
Q Did he repeat that the August 6th memo did not point to a
MR. McCLELLAN: Steve, I think that's kind of getting into the
substance of the discussion. I think the President was asked a little
bit about that in the meeting. The President was pleased to sit down
with the commission. It was a very cordial meeting. The President
thought they had a number of thoughtful questions, and he was pleased
to answer all the questions that they asked. He was pleased to sit
down with them for more than three hours and visit with them about all
these issues. But I think it's -- this was a private meeting, and I
think I'll leave it to the commission's final report to address a lot
of those issues.
Q Is it safe to say the discussion about the August 6th memo
covered the same ground we've heard before?
MR. McCLELLAN: Steve, I think you've heard from Dr. Rice and
others in the administration relating to that, and I'm just not going
to get into a discussion of the private meeting the President had with
Q Did he say, whether or not, though, that on that particular
MR. McCLELLAN: You've had your question. I'll come back to you.
Q But this relates to that.
MR. McCLELLAN: Terry yields.
Q To say that on that particular point, that the
administration's position on the information contained in the PDB has
MR. McCLELLAN: I think you've heard -- yes, I think you've heard
Q I just wanted to be clear on that.
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead.
Q Scott, you mentioned the President and the Vice President
cleared three hours of their schedule here today. Two members of the
commission left early. We saw Vice Chairman Hamilton and Senator
Kerrey leave early. Can you explain why and what the White House
MR. McCLELLAN: I think you'd have to ask those members. I don't
know what their other commitments were. I think you'd have to --
Q Was the White House aware that these members would leave --
MR. McCLELLAN: I would direct those questions to the members. I'm
not going to try to speak for those members.
Q Was the White House aware in advance that two members would
walk out during the session?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think there may have been some discussion that
there were some other commitments those members may have had. But you
can direct those questions to them.
Q And then, during the public sessions of the 9/11 Commission,
it, from time to time, got a little adversarial. Was there any of that
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think you heard from the President -- he
talked about how it was cordial. And I think it was a respectful
meeting. Like I said, he appreciates very much the work that the 9/11
Commission is doing. This is very important work, and this is -- and
their report and their recommendations can help us win the war on
terrorism, help us better protect the homeland. And that's why he very
much looks forward to seeing their report.
Go ahead, Helen.
Q I'm changing the subject slightly. A Gallup Poll says the
majority of the Iraqis want the Americans out of their country. What
was your reaction to that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Helen, a couple of things. One, I think the
President talked about this in his press conference a couple of weeks
ago. He said, no one wants to be occupied. We don't want to be
occupiers. Of course, the Iraqi people want to run their country. And
that is why we're working to move forward as quickly as possible to
transfer sovereignty to the Iraqi people, and we're going to do that on
I would also note that in that poll that Iraqis -- many Iraqis feel
that despite the hardships that they've been through, it was very much
worth it to remove Saddam Hussein from power. The world is better off
and America is more secure because Saddam Hussein was removed from
Q Were you able to give any date of when all Americans will be
MR. McCLELLAN: We're going to stay to finish the job and make sure
that -- and make sure that there is a free and peaceful Iraq. I think
Q Were you surprised at the poll -- were you surprised at the
MR. McCLELLAN: No, look, I think the President talked about in his
press conference a couple of weeks ago that very question.
Q So you know that we're a hair shirt to them.
MR. McCLELLAN: No one -- of course no one wants to be occupied,
Helen. We don't want to be occupiers. We liberated the country. And
Q Well, why are we there?
MR. McCLELLAN: We're there to help the Iraqi people realize a free
and peaceful future because that is critical to winning the war on
terrorism. That's why we're there. A free and peaceful Iraq --
Q We didn't go in to win the war on terrorism when we invaded
MR. McCLELLAN: A free and peaceful Iraq -- this is a broad war on
terrorism that we are undertaking. The President believes that we must
take strong and decisive action to eliminate the threats that we face.
That's what September 11th taught us, which is what we're talking about
Q Do you think we increased terrorism by invading Iraq?
MR. McCLELLAN: Helen, terrorists have no regard for innocent
life. They will carry out their attacks without discretion. They want
to harm innocent men, women, and children, and spread fear and chaos.
And I think that if you go back to what David Kay said in one of his
reports -- or after one of his reports, he said that Iraq was
potentially even more dangerous than we thought prior to September
Q How is that?
MR. McCLELLAN: He talked about it. You can go back and look at
Q How much of a readout did you get from either the President
or Judge Gonzales on the substance of the -- of the substance that was
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I talked to the President after the meeting.
But I'm not going to get into discussing the substance of the meeting.
The President said he felt that was best left to others to address.
And I think that they'll obviously be addressing all these issues in
their final report.
Q And so he did not discuss with you and you don't know, in
terms of the President said that they discussed a wide range of topics,
you don't know what those were?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he said that. He said, out in the Rose
Garden, he talked about how they discussed a wide range of topics, and
I did visit with him afterwards, but I'm not going to get into the
substance of the discussion.
Q Well, Scott, you did say that they discussed the August 6th
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I didn't. I said our views are very well
Q But you said it also came up briefly in the meeting. You did
say that it came up in the meeting.
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q I think you did say that it came up in the meeting.
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think I did.
Q He was asked a little bit about that.
Q He was asked a little bit about that in the meeting today.
MR. McCLELLAN: What was that in response to?
Q August 6th PDB.
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't remember saying it. I don't recall saying
it to that specific question.
Q Okay. I was going to say that if that came up, is it --
did you get any sense from the President about how much time they might
have spent on this testimony by Mr. Clarke, who said that the President
and Dr. Rice were asleep at the switch?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, John, I'm just -- I'm going to let the
commission's report speak to all these issues. And that will be coming
out soon enough.
Q The President also talked about how he was interested in
MR. McCLELLAN: I would point out what the commission said in their
statement. They did say that it was extraordinary, and talked about
how it lasted for more than three hours, and they went on to talk about
how the President and Vice President were very forthcoming and candid,
according to their statement. And they talked about how they -- the
information that was provided to them by the President and Vice
President was of great assistance to the commission as it completes its
final report. And they thanked the President and Vice President for
their continued cooperation with the commission.
We've been working closely and cooperatively with the commission
from the beginning.
Q Let me try one more. The President said in the Rose Garden
that he was very interested in the recommendations, that the commission
talked about what to do looking forward and he was very interested in
that. Can you characterize at all the discussions on that? Did they
talk about specific proposals? As you know, many members of the
commission have said there needs to be some domestic intelligence
agency; the President has said he would consider that, but he wants to
MR. McCLELLAN: I think I'll leave it where the President -- to
what the President said in the Rose Garden. He touched on that
Q Did anybody at the White House ask the commission today to
not discuss the contents and substance of the three hours?
MR. McCLELLAN: Not that I'm aware of. I mean, I think that the
commission -- if you look back to the private meeting they had with
President Clinton and Vice President Gore, addressed this in the same
way. They put out a statement afterwards, and I don't think they
really got into any substantive discussion about the issues. They
maybe talked very generally about it.
Q Can you discuss what you think is different about the
President and Vice President's meeting, as opposed to former President
Clinton and Gore? Because in those interviews with the 9/11
Commission, they were recorded. Why didn't President Bush and the Vice
President allow their meeting to be recorded?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think this is consistent with many
important meetings that we have at the White House, and certainly
meetings that the President has in the Oval Office. There are many
important meetings, whether they are meetings with world leaders, or
National Security Council meetings, or policy briefings on high
priorities, where notes are taken. I think --
Q But arguably, none of those rise to the level of importance
of determining what went wrong on September 11th.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let's see, the NSC meeting that the President
had when he decided to launch war and go into Afghanistan, notes were
taken from that meeting. It wasn't recorded. So I think that I would
disagree with that somewhat. But there were detailed notes taken in
Jim, and then David.
Q You mentioned yesterday that you anticipated that most of the
questions would be to the President. Obviously --
MR. McCLELLAN: It's my understanding that's the way it was.
Q That's the way it was?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes.
Q And the President indicated there were, obviously, some
questions to the Vice President, as well. Do you have some feel for
how the questions were divided up?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not going to try to break it down to that
extent, but the President answered most of the questions, because most
of the questions were directed to him, as I said they probably would
Q It's safe to say they were on the same page? (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: Safe to say they were in the same room.
Q Can you characterize at all the extent to which the
commissioners were interested in what happened on the day of the
attacks, as opposed to all of the other issues involved here?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I'm just not going to get into discussion of
the substance of the meeting at this point.
Q Scott, the President said it was important for the commission
to see him and the Vice President together, to see their body language,
to see how they work together. Were we to take that as an indication
that they both answered some of the same questions? In other words, a
question was posed, you'd get an answer from one and then an answer
from the other?
MR. McCLELLAN: Look, David, I wasn't in the meeting. But I
certainly wouldn't rule it out that the President maybe addressed some
things, and the Vice President may have added some comments. But I
wouldn't rule that out, but, again, I wasn't in the meeting and I'm not
going to get too far into discussion on the substance of those
Q What does that mean, judge them by their body language?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q What does that mean? What does the President mean when he
MR. McCLELLAN: You're talking about what he said in the Rose
Q Yes. What does he mean when he says, the commission members
judged their body language?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let's look back at what he said. Well, I
think that he was obviously there in the room; they were sitting very
close together, they were all sitting somewhat in a circle, and he felt
it was a very cordial meeting. They had a very good discussion. He
felt it was a great meeting. He appreciated the opportunity to share
his views and thoughts with the commission, and to talk about what we
Now, you keep jumping in here. I'm going to keep going back to
other people, and maybe we'll come back. Sarah, you had your
Q Thank you. Different question -- I mean, different topic?
Q Can we stay on this subject.
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll come back to you, Sarah. I'll come back to
Q Your last answer actually anticipated -- in my question.
Could you go into describing in some detail the physical layout of the
meeting in terms of --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, it's the Oval Office, and you know how the
Oval Office is set up. And you have the two chairs in front of the
fireplace, and that's where the President and Vice President sat, as
they typically do. And then members of the commission were sitting on
the couch, as well as chairs right at the end of those couches, in kind
of a -- in a little bit of a semi-circle shape.
Q Chairman and co-chair were at the opposite end from the
President and the Vice President?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, that's right, that's correct. Close to the
Q And the President was seated on the right or the left?
MR. McCLELLAN: In his usual seat where he sits. So if you're
standing in front of the fireplace facing his desk, he's to the left.
Q Why did you decide to do it in the Oval, as opposed to, say,
the Roosevelt Room --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there are a lot of important meetings that
take place in the Oval. I talked about meetings with world leaders,
and certainly policy briefings. So the President viewed it as a good
way to sit down and discuss these important issues with members of the
Q Was part of the calculation -- just one more on this. Was
part of the calculation -- you used the word, sitting together somewhat
-- was part of the calculation that a setting like that in the Oval
might be less, potentially, adversarial than if it was in the Roosevelt
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think I would look at it that way, Ken. I
don't think anyone came in looking at this meeting as something that
was adversarial. I think they came into this meeting looking to find
some answers to their questions, and I think that they got those
answers to their questions, to help piece together the information that
they've already been provided access to.
Q Did the White House take stills?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think there were some pictures taken at the
Q Will you release one for us?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think we're going to. This was a private
Q And where were the co-chairs seated?
Q Are we going to see them in the hallway? (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q Where were the co-chairs seated?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't recall specifically. I know -- I think
Chairman Kean was on the couch, close to the President. I'm not sure
where Chairman Hamilton was.
Q Scott, who brought the meeting to an end? How did it end?
MR. McCLELLAN: It ended -- look, I mean --
Q Did they run out of questions? Did the President -- had to
go eat lunch?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, it wasn't -- no, it wasn't something he ended.
I mean, it came to an end. I think that they were very satisfied with
the time that they were allotted, or that they had with the President.
But I think that, typically, the Chairman kind of looks for a good
opportunity when they've had their questions answered to wrap things
up. But the President was pleased to sit down and visit with them for,
I believe it was three hours and 10 minutes, from 9:30 a.m to 12:40
Q New topic?
MR. McCLELLAN: New topic?
Q One last thing. On the picture --
MR. McCLELLAN: Okay, you're following Norah's lead. You keep
jumping in here, too.
Q Isn't it possible for you to release a still, one of the
stills that you took? I mean, you know we're going to see them on the
wall here in a matter of weeks.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I understand, but I also want to keep in mind
that the way this was set up was as a private meeting. And I want to
be respectful of that, too. But I always take it under advisement.
Q Any chance of a seating chart?
Q Was there any -- did the President agree at all to answer any
follow-up questions, like most of the other witnesses, or people at the
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, did he what?
Q Did he agree to answer any follow-up questions the commission
might have, even informally?
MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, there were certainly -- I think there were
certainly follow-up questions.
Q No, no, no. I meant in the future, over the next few weeks.
Because the commission has asked all the other people they've
interviewed if they would mind being contacted in the future, even if
it's informally, not in this kind of setting.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think the best way to address that is to
let me just say that we're going to continue to provide close
cooperation with the commission, to help them complete their work.
We're going to continue working very closely with them. I don't know
that that specifically came up. Again, I wasn't in the meeting. But
we're going to continue to work closely and cooperatively with the
commission to help them complete their work on the timetable that has
been set out.
Q Do you know if there are any more discussions about the
parameters of what in this meeting will or will not be included in the
commission's final report?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, obviously, when you're talking about some
information that may be classified, you have to take that into
account. And, certainly, I think in private meetings that they have,
you can expect classified information was discussed. So you have to
look at those issues, and you discuss that with the commission and you
work all those -- work that out with the commission. But I think that
they will have the information they need to provide a comprehensive and
thorough report to the American people. They -- in their very
statement, they talked about how the President and Vice President were
of great assistance to them and were very helpful to them in completing
Q So with the exception of classified information, you --
people can anticipate that they will see the contents of this?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you'll have the report before too long.
You'll be able to see what's in it. But the whole purpose of the
President sitting down and visiting with the commission was to answer
questions that they may have and help them piece together all the
information they have, and as he talked about, to talk about our
strategy for addressing these threats, as well.
Q Any chance of a seating chart -- your releasing a seating
chart, if you're not releasing photos?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't -- I don't know that we took -- well, we
certainly didn't take a seating chart at the beginning, and they're
gone now. So I don't -- I wouldn't anticipate that.
Jeff, go ahead.
Q Scott, Governor Thompson set out in a meeting that he thought
it went well and he wishes the American people would have been able to
see this on television. What is the thinking now, in hindsight, of not
releasing a picture or any part of this, given that he said it went
well and you're saying it went well?
MR. McCLELLAN: The American people are going to have a report from
this commission, and they're going to be able to see what the
commission has learned. They're going to be able to see what the
commission recommends. The President very much wants to see their
report and see their recommendations and make sure that we take steps
to act on those recommendations, as well.
Q Were there any breaks in the meeting, or it was a solid three
MR. McCLELLAN: No, it went the full time.
Q Was the President in the room the whole time, or did he --
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, he was in the room the whole time.
Yes, go ahead, Brian.
Q Given the -- regarding the detailed notes that were taken,
will the White House provide the commission with its notes of today's
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the commission took -- took its own notes and
stuff. And so we're working to make sure they have all the information
they need to complete their report. And you can expect that.
Q That would exclude the notes that were taken by the White
MR. McCLELLAN: Brian, they'll have all the information they need
to complete their work. They were all there. I think all members
probably took some of their own notes. They had a staff member there
to take detailed notes. And I fully expect if they have follow-up
issues they want to address to the administration in those notes or
anything like that, we'll work with them to make sure they have the
information they need.
Go ahead, Jeff.
Q Some Republicans on Capitol Hill believe that the work of the
9/11 Commission won't be complete until and unless Jamie Gorelick
testifies before the commission on her role in building the wall
between intelligence and law enforcement. Is that an opinion shared by
the White House?
MR. McCLELLAN: Look, the President -- I think even at the
beginning of the meeting, he made some brief remarks. He didn't have a
prepared opening statement or anything like that, but certainly made
some opening remarks at the beginning. And, essentially, I think he
thanked them for the work that they're doing, talked about how he
appreciated what they were doing and that their work is very important
to what we -- what we are doing to protect the American people.
And I think that the President looks at this and doesn't believe
there ought to be finger-pointing. We ought to all be working together
to learn the lessons of September 11th and make sure that we are doing
everything that we can to protect the homeland and win the war on
terrorism. That's the way -- that's the way he looks at it.
Q Well, the Justice Department keeps releasing documents. They
released another -- they declassified 30 pages yesterday that reinforce
the idea that Commissioner Gorelick has more that she could offer to --
MR. McCLELLAN: I understand that's what the Justice Department
did. We were not involved in it. I think the President was
disappointed about that.
Q The President was disappointed in the Justice Department
releasing those documents?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, putting that -- putting that on their website,
Q Then what did he do about it?
MR. McCLELLAN: Sara. Sara, go ahead.
Q Thank you. Scott --
MR. McCLELLAN: He actually expressed that to the commission, as
Q But did he -- did he talk to --
Q How about to Ashcroft?
Q -- yes, to General Ashcroft?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think it's been communicated to the Justice
Q But why was he disappointed?
Q Word from China is --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, like I said -- it's what I said at the
beginning. The President does not believe we ought to be pointing
fingers during this time period. We ought to be working together to
help the commission complete its work. This is very important work
that they are doing that will help us in our efforts to carry out the
President's most solemn responsibility, which is to protect the
Q Would you consider releasing his opening remarks to the
MR. McCLELLAN: John, we didn't have a transcript. We took notes.
But again --
Q Well, let's see how accurate your notes are.
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead.
Q Word from China is North Korea is willing to give up its
nuclear weapons and stop making more for a price. Is the President
willing to bargain and open a direct dialogue with North Korea, or is
MR. McCLELLAN: Sara, that approach didn't work previously. North
Korea violated their agreement. And the President believes that it's
important to work through the multilateral six-party talks to bring
about a peaceful diplomatic resolution to this concern. This is a very
serious concern of ours. It's a very serious concern for countries in
And that's why we're working together with China and South Korea
and Japan and others to bring about a peaceful resolution. And we look
forward to having working group talks in May at some point. And China,
I think, will be making an official announcement on that. I don't know
that they have at this point. But we want to see progress in these
talks. North Korea needs to dismantle its nuclear program in a
verifiable and irreversible way, and we want to see progress toward
that in these talks.
And we're going into these talks without any set preconditions, but
that's the shared goal of all the countries that are involved in these
Q Scott --
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Connie.
Q I have a follow-up.
Q Go ahead.
Q One more question, please? Does the President plan to attend
the official dedication of the war memorial to memorial -- war memorial
to memorial -- on Memorial Day? If not, now that the memorial is open
to the public, will he just go by --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think he would be honored to do that, but we
haven't announced his schedule at this point. But we will be
announcing his schedule soon.
Q I just had a quick question, Scott. First, just on the
commission briefly, are these commissioners paid? Or is it voluntary?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know. I imagine they're reimbursed or paid
for expenses. I don't know. You can direct those questions to the
Q And then one more, is the President --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sure in the legislation they set up some sort
of -- for expenses.
Q Is the President watching at all this anti-Semitism
conference going on in Germany?
MR. McCLELLAN: Very aware of the discussions when it comes to
anti-Semitism. And all of us must speak out and confront anti-Semitism
wherever it exists. And the President has a strong record of speaking
out on these issues.
Q Has he sent his own communication to them?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Secretary Powell was there --
Q I understand.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- representing the administration. And you have
comments from him?
Q Scott, today history was made on the Capitol Hill.
Thirty-two senators from both parties under the leadership of Hillary
Rodham Clinton and John Cornyn, they dedicated the first-ever U.S.
India Club in the U.S. Senate, they call the India Caucus in the U.S.
Senate. Both parties, leaders from the top of both parties, they spoke
that the time has come for the United States and India to work together
and forget the past. Cold War is over now, and now they work together
and fight against terrorism. What I need, a comment from the President
-- you can say that, too -- how does the President feel something like
this, a club or caucus on the Capitol Hill that two -- from the both
parties, they're supporting? And just work --
MR. McCLELLAN: We're working together with India in a number of
different ways to confront common challenges, and we're working
together with India in the war on terrorism. And so he appreciates
efforts, certainly, that move in the direction of strengthening our
relations even more.
I'm not sure of the specific step that was taken on the Hill today,
but I'll be glad to look at it.
Q Yes, but does the President support something like this, a
caucus like --
MR. McCLELLAN: Like I said, I have not seen exactly what action
was taken, but I'll be glad to look at it.
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, April.
Q Scott, after the testimony this morning, President Bush went
out to the South Lawn -- not the South Lawn, but the Rose Garden to let
America know everything was okay. But apparently everything isn't
okay. CBS and The New York Times have come up with a poll saying that
Kerry is beating him 46 to 44 percent. And Democrats are saying that
the President has raised more money than they have, outspent them, and
he's still in trouble.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, I think you're getting into campaign
Q It's a campaign time.
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sure the campaign would be glad to talk --
would be glad to talk to you about some of those issues in terms of the
spending and all the outside groups that are involved in that, as
well. I think you might want to look at that, too.
But, look, you know, this is about making the world safer and
better and making America more secure. The President is not driven by
polls. There are going to be a lot of polls between now and election
day. But there are clear choices that we face as we move forward to
win the war on terrorism. And there are clear differences in how we
approach the war on terrorism. There are also clear differences on how
we approach our economy. Today's GDP numbers are another indication
that our economy is strong and growing stronger. There are a number of
positive indicators that the economy is moving in the right direction.
But there are fundamental differences on these issues, and we're
going to continue to talk about the clear choices that we face. But we
are waging a broad war on terrorism to make America safer and more
secure and to make the world a better place.
Q Scott, a follow up. On a day where he's trying to garner the
nation's support, as many people were concerned about what he was going
to give to the 9/11 Commission, his numbers have fallen. What do you
think that says to the American public?
MR. McCLELLAN: April, there are going to be a lot of polls between
now and November.
Go ahead, Ben.
Q Scott, we're coming up on the year anniversary of when the
President landed on the USS Abraham Lincoln and declared that major
combat operations were over under the "mission accomplished" banner.
Is there now, in retrospect, a feeling that the President was overly
optimistic and maybe had misled Americans, and now leading to a certain
amount of buyer's remorse in some of these polls and that this is going
to be more of political headache than an asset for him --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Ben, I think the President was honored to go
and thank our troops onboard the USS Lincoln for all that they had done
in our efforts in Iraq. He was pleased to go to the USS Lincoln and
thank the sailors on board the ship and thank the pilots on board the
ship and thank other men and women in the military who were on board
the ship. They had completed their mission and were returning back to
America, and it was a nice thing for the President of the United States
to do on behalf of the nation.
Q But he also declared major combat operations over, and gave
the sense that the war was winding down.
MR. McCLELLAN: Let's go back and look at his remarks. He also
declared that there is more to do, that difficulties remain in Iraq.
Q So there's no --
Q Well, is it still true that major combat operations are
MR. McCLELLAN: There are certainly combat operations that are
still underway and --
Q Any major combat operations that are still underway?
MR. McCLELLAN: That's still correct.
Q Still correct that there are major combat operations underway
MR. McCLELLAN: No, no, no. What he said is still correct, that
there are still certainly combat operations and dangers that remain in
Iraq, and our troops are doing an outstanding job, they are performing
brilliantly in their efforts to bring about a free and peaceful Iraq --
which is critical to winning the war on terrorism.
Q What you said about the Justice Department and the
President's displeasure is pretty remarkable. Can you tell us who
conveyed his displeasure to the Justice Department and how? And has
the President or anyone at the White House -- Judge Gonzales -- asked
for any kind of accountability on how the Justice Department would have
released these documents without checking with the White House in this
middle of this environment?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think so on that. It's been communicated,
I believe, at the staff level.
Q Through Judge Gonzales or Chief of Staff Andy Card or --
MR. McCLELLAN: It's been communicated at the staff level. I think
I'll leave it at that.
Q Was anyone at the White House aware that those documents --
for involved in their release, at all?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry? No, we weren't involved in that
Q Are you upset over the fact that the Justice Department --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, actually, I addressed that earlier, I think
Q Are you upset over the fact that the Justice Department did
this without coordinating with the White House?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think he's disappointed that that information was
placed on their website like that.
Q And without clearing it with the White House first, is that
part of --
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know if I -- I think I'm looking more at
what happened and what was put up on the website.
Q What are you disappointed about?
Q What are you mad about?
Q What's the concern? I mean, obviously, the President had a
concern if he mentioned it to the commission. What is the concern?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry? What is the concern? I said -- like I
said, he very much appreciates the work that the 9/11 Commission is
doing. He appreciates the work that all the members on the commission
are doing. Their work is very important. He believes that we should
all be working together to help the commission complete its work, and
not pointing fingers at one another.
I think -- I think I'll just leave it where I did.
Q Is he aware, Scott, that information is still there?
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead -- go ahead, Ed.
Q Scott, just for posterity, I know you're loathe to name
names, but can you tell us by, say, job title, who on the White House
staff was in the room?
MR. McCLELLAN: Who was in the -- oh, in the Oval Office during the
9/11 Commission meeting?
Q Besides --
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I said that earlier today when I was asked
about it. You had Judge Gonzales, and then you had Tom Mannheim, who
has been working very closely with the 9/11 Commission. He works in
our office. I did check with them to make sure that they knew I was
going to mention their names. And then Bryan Cunningham, who is in the
NSC Counsel's Office.
Q Just to be on the --
MR. McCLELLAN: And he works very closely on these issues, as well,
working to help the 9/11 Commission complete their work.
Q Scott, on the issues with Justice, does the President not
believe that Gorelick's actions are worthy of looking at? Or is he
just concerned with the way the Justice Department --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, the -- he's not going to tell the commission
what to and what not to look at. He thinks that the commission ought
to look at everything that will help them complete their important
work. But he did express his disappointment to the Commission. I
think that I can leave it there. I think that his views have been made
Q Is he aware, Scott, that those documents are still on the
MR. McCLELLAN: I have not looked at the website today, John, no.
END 2:56 P.M. EDT