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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 30, 2004
Press Briefing by Scott McClellan
The James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:15 P.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me read out a phone call from earlier today that the President had with President Arroyo. The President called to congratulate President Arroyo on winning another term in office. The President also thanked President Arroyo for her strong support in the war against terror and the Philippines' contributions to help the Iraqi interim government improve the security situation in Iraq.
A couple of quick announcements. The President will welcome Prime Minister Oddsson of Iceland to the White House on July 6th. Iceland is a valued friend and ally of the United States, making key contributions to NATO operations in Afghanistan and the Balkans. Prime Minister Oddsson, the longest serving elected leader in Europe, is a strong supporter of the international effort to bring peace and democracy to Iraq.
The President and the Prime Minister will discuss a range of issues, including combating terrorism, Iraq and the broader Middle East, NATO issues in the wake of the Istanbul summit, and bilateral, economic and defense cooperation.
Secondly, the President will welcome President Saca of El Salvador, to the White House on July 12th. The President looks forward to discussing with President Saca shared objectives in the areas of security, human rights and free trade. The President values the cooperative relationship with El Salvador, including El Salvador's support for the war on terror, and the international effort to build a democratic, free and prosperous Iraq.
And finally, I just want to give you an update on the President's day. The President was pleased to welcome Ambassador Bremer back to the White House and have lunch with him here in his private dining room. Prior to the lunch, the President and Ambassador Bremer went across the way to the Executive Office Building to stop by a previously scheduled meeting with Iraqi Americans who were here at the White House receiving a briefing and update on the situation in Iraq. The President made some brief remarks. There were about 150 or so Iraqi Americans who were present.
The President thanked Ambassador Bremer for his great work over the last 14 months to help the Iraqi people transition to a free and peaceful and democratic future. The President also talked about America's commitment to freedom and America's belief that everyone yearns to live in freedom. He talked about how Iraqi is the central front in the war on terrorism, and how it is never easy in going from decades of tyranny to a future of freedom. The terrorists are desperately trying to shake the will and determination of the free world and the Iraqi people, because what the terrorists fear most is freedom. And the only way they will not be defeated is if they can shake our will. The President emphasized that our will is unshakable and that the terrorists will not prevail. Advancing freedom in Iraq will help transform the Middle East and make America more secure. And our troops have been serving and sacrificing to make the world a safer and better place, and we are forever grateful. The President said, we will never retreat in the face of terrorism. And he talked about the progress that we have made in just 14 months in Iraq. He also firmly stated our commitment to help the Iraqi people complete the mission of a free and peaceful Iraq.
So the President was pleased to stop by that meeting. The Iraqi Americans who were present were very grateful for the President dropping by and speaking to them, and very appreciative of what we have accomplished in Iraq.
And, clearly, I just add to this, the people of Iraq are also committed to defeating the terrorists. Now that transfer -- sovereignty has been transferred to the interim government, Prime Minister Allawi is speaking out and making it clear that he is determined to defeat the terrorists. I noticed that earlier this week, Grand Ayatollah Sistani issued a statement in which he prohibited cooperation with terrorists and called on Iraqis to be on the watch-out for those who would seek to destroy the infrastructure and the public institutions in Iraq. So, clearly, the Iraqi people are committed to eliminating those foreign terrorists who are in the country and realizing a better future.
And with that, I'll be glad to go to your questions. Deb.
Q Since the Gitmo -- the Supreme Court ruling on Guantanamo detainees, is this going to speed up the process of the administration sorting these people out and figuring out who is going to be freed, and who is going to go before tribunals, and who is going to be held incognito for many more years, or whatever?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you actually brought up a very good point. If you recall, back in February Secretary Rumsfeld announced a process that he was putting in place to do an annual review of the status of those detainees at Guantanamo Bay. And the Department of Defense was moving forward on that process already.
Certainly, in terms of the Supreme Court decision, we're pleased that Supreme Court recognized the authority of the President, as Commander-in-Chief, to exercise his constitutional responsibility in a time of war. The President's most solemn obligation is to protect the American people. We also recognize that the court had some concerns, and we respect those concerns. So the National Security Council and the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice and others are discussing these issues. They're working expeditiously to move forward to put a process in place to address these concerns. And that is where things stand at this point.
Q Does the ruling speed it up even further? And how long are we talking about?
MR. McCLELLAN: They're moving expeditiously. Again, I don't want to put a time frame on it, but they're discussing these issues as we speak. They've already been under discussion since the court ruling on Monday, I believe it was. And we will have more to say soon. I expect that further announcements on this matter would probably come from the Department of Defense.
But we want to make sure that we put a process in place that respects the concerns that the Supreme Court raised and does so in a way that is consistent with the authority of the President to exercise his constitutional responsibility during at time of war. And the court recognized that authority, as well. The President's most important responsibility is the safety and security of the American people. We are a nation at war and the President does have the right to detain enemy combatants during this time of conflict and to hold them during that conflict. The court recognized that. But at the same time, they expressed some concerns. And we'll be putting a process in place to address those concerns.
Q Those concerns --
MR. McCLELLAN: To the former legal reporter.
Q Those -- and American citizen -- those concerns were the denial of habeas corpus to an American citizen, the denial of access to the courts indefinitely, forever, claimed by the Executive that the court slapped down. Those aren't minor concerns.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there are two separate issues here. There are the American citizens who were picked up on the battlefield, and some of those individuals, we have already taken the step to provide them access to the courts. And then there are the non-American citizens who are picked up on the battlefield. And the court recognized that these are difficult issues to address. But they talked about the ability of those detainees to have notice and the opportunity to be heard. And so that's what we're working --
Q And I'm hearing, in your dismissal, it seems, of the court's --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I wouldn't look at it at that way at all, Terry.
Q -- concerns that that reflects somehow the administration's attitude about complying with the court's very clear command that the constitutional rights of American citizens like Mr. Hamdi and the human rights of the detainees in Guantanamo Bay must be honored by the Executive Branch.
MR. McCLELLAN: I wouldn't characterize it that way at all, the way you did, Terry. We respect the court's decision, and that's why we're moving forward quickly to put a process in place to address those concerns. But we want to do so in a way that is consistent with the constitutional responsibility of the President to exercise his authority during a time of war. And that's what we will do, because the President recognizes that his most important obligation to the American people is their safety and security.
We remain a nation at war; we remain a nation that is in a conflict. And the President has the right to detain enemy combatants during this time --
Q A nation under law.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- of conflict. And so we will move forward in waging this war and we will also move forward on addressing the concerns of the court.
Q Saddam Hussein is being handed over. We saw him for the first time today. Is it your feeling he should get the death penalty?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Steve, that's going to be a decision that will be made by the Iraqi people through their special tribunal. There is a special tribunal that was put in place very early on by the Governing Council. Today begins the process whereby Saddam Hussein and leaders of his regime will be brought to justice by the Iraqi people. This was a brutal regime that was responsible for mass graves, torture chambers and rape rooms. They will be brought to justice and held accountable by the Iraqi people.
Saddam Hussein and his regime leaders are going to face Iraqi justice for the grave atrocities they committed against the Iraqi people. Saddam Hussein and his regime leaders are going to face justice for the mass murders of innocent Iraqis who were killed on the orders of a tyrant; for the torture chambers, where brutality was carried out against those who spoke out and disagreed with the regime; and for the rape rooms, where women were taken to be raped. Saddam Hussein and his regime leaders will face justice, but they will also be provided rights that they denied to others in Iraq.
Q But do you have an opinion on the death penalty for --
MR. McCLELLAN: Steve, those are decisions that are going to be made by the special tribunal which represents the Iraqi people.
Go ahead, David.
Q About a year ago, right now, the White House was backing away from the President's comments that Saddam Hussein had sought uranium in Africa. There have been a number of reports in the past week concerning possible inquiries by the Iraqis in Africa. What's the White House position now? Are you where you were when the President gave the speech? Or are you where you were when you renounced that part of the speech?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, David, I noticed those articles earlier this week, as well. I found them interesting. I don't have any update from our standpoint. Certainly, those articles were sourcing European intelligence officials. But I did find them very interesting.
Q And on a related issue, has the President come to an independent determination about whether the mobile biological laboratories actually existed based on the intelligence he's being given now, or, in other words, is he in agreement yet with his Secretary of State?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, as you are aware, we are learning more over time about the purposes of those labs. The last public comment I recall on this was by Director Tenet. But we have continued to learn more --
Q The last public comment was by Secretary Powell.
MR. McCLELLAN: In terms of the intelligence community and what they represented was by Director Tenet a few months ago. We have continued to learn more since that time, and I think you should address those questions to our intelligence community in terms of what the latest information we have about those laboratories.
Q They'll tell us.
Q You're not yet in agreement with your Secretary of State?
MR. McCLELLAN: Like I said, that -- as the Secretary of State pointed out, we have been learning more about those mobile labs. But the last word from the intelligence community that was stated publicly was by Director Tenet. And so that's the last information I have.
Q He didn't say we've been learning more. He said it was false and he regretted saying it, that we've been misled, I think was his phrase.
MR. McCLELLAN: The last public comments he stated?
Q By the Secretary of State was that we had been misled.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, by Director Tenet, the last public comments were that there was some differences of opinion about what they were for. But that's why I pointed out that we have learned more from that information. I'm not aware of any further public update from the intelligence community at this time. So that's the information that we go on at this point.
Q The Secretary of State might have had an update.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, like I said, we have been learning more since that time period.
Q And he said he was sorry.
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead.
Q Do you have any reaction to the Israeli agreement to redirect the 18 miles of fence? And with the World Court ruling expected this week, what is the current assessment of the security fence?
MR. McCLELLAN: As you pointed out, that was a decision by the high court in Israel. We have talked to Israel, the government of Israel about the security barriers that they have put in place and are putting in place. I understand the government of Israel has responded to their high court's ruling. And we will continue to discuss these issues with the government of Israel.
I think also it's important to point out that we want to continue working with all parties to get them moving forward again on the road map and get them moving forward to prepare the institutions that need to be in place for a Palestinian state to emerge, particularly as Prime Minister Sharon moves forward on his withdrawal plan from Gaza and parts of the West Bank.
Q Do you think there could be any real movement before our election?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, it's an issue that we remain actively engaged on and in discussions with leaders in the region and others. As you're aware, these issues were discussed at the G8 summit. We had some Arab leaders there, as well, where these issues were discussed. They were discussed at the recent meetings of the E.U. and the U.S. in Ireland. We also discussed these issues at the NATO summit, as well.
The President remains firmly committed to a two-state vision of Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security. And we have a real opportunity before us to get moving again on the road map. I think the Quartet recognizes that. I think others in the region recognize the importance of getting a unified security team in place for the Palestinians, so when the Israelis withdraw, that they are ready to provide for the security of those areas, and that they are ready to move forward to put the institutions in place necessary for a Palestinian state to emerge.
Q Scott, how would you answer those who see this Pentagon decision to call up some of the ready Reserves and they say, on the one hand, they believe the administration has stretched the military too thin and they also say it is more proof to them that the administration underestimated the troop levels needed in Iraq?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think what I would say is that -- remind the American people that we are a nation at war. We were talking about this earlier with the Supreme Court decision. We remain at war on terrorism. And there are many brave men and women in our military who are serving and sacrificing to make the world a safer and better place and to protect the American people. What we are working to accomplish is to provide for the long-term security of our nation. And it's our men and women in uniform who recognize that their most important task is to protect the American people. I think they understand the importance of the work that they are carrying out.
In terms of resources and troops, I mean, the Department of Defense and our military leaders and commanders look at these issues and look at what the needs are and make determinations of what their needs are and then work to meet those needs. But there are many in our military, both active duty, as well as our Guard and Reserves, who are serving admirably to make the world a better place for all. And we are forever grateful for their service. But I think the Department of Defense will probably have more to say on this issue shortly.
Q Can I ask you also, did Ambassador Bremer come here with any one or two final recommendations to the President, things that he came -- coming back, just coming back from Iraq, said these are the one or two things I think you should do right now to help the situation?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not sure that their meeting had wrapped up at the time that I came out here to brief you all. But this was more of an opportunity for the President to say thank-you to Ambassador Bremer on behalf of the nation for all the great work that he has done over the last 14 months to help move forward on transferring sovereignty to Iraqi people, reconstructing the nation for the Iraqi people, and to help the Iraqi people move forward on holding elections and realizing a better future. So that was the main purpose of the meeting.
Q Scott, as you look back at the NATO summit, President Chirac quarreled with the meaning of the agreement reached on training of Iraqi security forces. He opposed the American proposal for elements of the NATO strike force to patrol Afghanistan for its elections and used very strong words, essentially telling the President to mind his own business where Turkey's admission to the E.U. was concerned. Friend or foe, this man Chirac? (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that what you have seen --
Q Seriously, though, despite the titters amongst my colleagues.
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me just step back from that for a second and then I'll come to that specific question -- because I think you've seen at the United Nations, through the Security Council resolution that was passed supporting the transition in Iraq to democracy and stability, I think you've seen through the G8 summit and through the European Union/United States summit in Ireland and through the NATO summit, that the international community is coming together to support the Iraqi people, and to support a free and democratic and peaceful future in Iraq. I think the international community recognizes the importance of success in Iraq, and the importance of a free and peaceful Iraq to the long-term security of the civilized world.
So the President has been focused on working together on these common challenges that we face -- not just on Iraq, but other areas, as well. As you heard him talk about yesterday in Istanbul, where he went to a secular, democratic nation that is a majority Muslim nation, and spoke out about the importance of supporting calls for reform within the broader Middle East, and partnering with those in the countries of the broader Middle East who seek reform and democracy. So we're focused on -- the President is focused on how we can work together to address important challenges of our time, and how we can change the world for the better. We recognize that there are going to be some that will have different views from time to time, but we should never lose sight of what we're working to accomplish and the importance of addressing these common challenges together. And that's the spirit in which the President works.
Q But I didn't -- my question is, sure, we'll see the some will have different views from time to time, but it seems this man, Chirac, has a different view every time. And I wonder if you are pleased with the state of French cooperation in all these issues.
MR. McCLELLAN: Look back at the NATO summit and look at commitment that was made. We were working to get NATO involved in the training and equipment of Iraqi security forces. And that was the commitment that NATO made at the summit in Istanbul. And they also made a commitment to look at additional ways they might be able to help in the future of Iraq going forward. And so they'll be looking at that, as well. They also made a strong commitment in Afghanistan, and certainly France has played an important role in Afghanistan, as well.
The President believes we should be focusing on that which brings us together to address these common challenges. And that's what he will continue to do, and we recognize there will still be some disagreements from time to time.
Q Back on Saddam Hussein, last week we heard the White House talk about values, especially as it related to torture. Are America's values consistent enough for support for the death penalty for Saddam Hussein, or are America's values at a point where we would condone that?
MR. McCLELLAN: April, this is a decision that the Iraqi people will make. We have said all along that it's important for Saddam Hussein to face justice by the Iraqi people, and today you see the first step in that process unfolding. You see Saddam Hussein and leaders of his regime being handed over to the interim government in Iraq so that they may try him for the grave atrocities that he was responsible for against his own people.
This is a time when people will be able to look back and remember how brutal and oppressive this regime was. And America stands for justice and the rule of law. There is the rule of law that has been put in place; there is a special tribunal that has been put in place by the Iraqi people. And that tribunal will be the one that will try these regime leaders and bring them to justice for the crimes that they committed against the Iraqi people.
Q Well, to follow up on that, going back before the war even started, President Bush made no bones about it that he didn't mind seeing Saddam Hussein dead. Now there's a chance that he could die legally through the death penalty.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, I believe tomorrow is when he will be arraigned, along with the other members. That has not happened at this point. Those are questions you really ought to direct to the interim government or the special tribunal in Iraq to get their views, because they are now responsible for their future, and they are responsible for holding those who are responsible for the atrocities of the past -- are bringing those who are responsible for the atrocities of the past to justice.
Q I guess my question is, why is it so hard to say something now, when before you didn't mind saying you wanted him dead or alive?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think I've addressed this. We've always believed that Saddam Hussein should face justice by the Iraqi people. And we're pleased that that process is moving forward today.
Q The President has been asserting quite a lot recently that after the war in Iraq, that America is safer. And yet, there seems to be some consistency in American polls that show that Americans don't seem to agree, that they fear that the aftermath of the war in Iraq is that America is, in fact, more vulnerable to terrorism both here and abroad. How do you explain that --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, I don't know that all polls show the same thing on that very subject that you bring up. I think the American people recognize that we are engaged in a broad war on terrorism. The American people recognize that September 11th changed the equation. These threats have been emerging for quite some time, the threats of terrorism. But this President made a decision that we were going to defeat the terrorist threat that we face. And the best way to do that is to take the fight to the enemy. That's exactly what we are doing. We are a nation at war. But because of the action that this President is taking, we are making the world a safer and better place and making America more secure. Saddam Hussein's regime has been removed from power, and the world is better off for that.
Q I understand. And as you should do, you have said that, the President has said that now about 4,000 times. And apparently, the American public doesn't quite agree with that argument. And I'm wondering if you can address what appears to be some disconnect.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think the American people recognize that the actions we are taking are making the world a safer and better place. So I tend to disagree with the premise of your question.
Q Well, if you saw something that indicated that a majority of Americans disagree --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, keep in mind a couple of things here. One, on September 11th, 2001, the terrorists -- well, the terrorists had declared war on us even prior to that date when they carried out their attacks across the world. The terrorists want to wreak chaos and havoc on the civilized world. And the only way to defeat them is to take the fight to them. But we also, as we take the fight to them, need to address the root causes of terrorism. And that means advancing freedom and democracy.
And that's why this President has made an unprecedented commitment to supporting freedom and democracy in the broader Middle East, and put forward an initiative that the international community has gotten behind to advance those efforts to partner with the people in those -- in that region to help them realize their aspirations.
So I think you have to look at what we are engaged in right now. We are engaged in a global war on terrorism. The terrorists know, as I said, that the only way they won't be defeated is if they can shake our will and determination and break our confidence. But that won't happen. We are going to defeat the terrorists. And we are going to make sure that we are doing everything we can to win this war on terrorism and prevent something like September 11th from ever happening again.
Q Did anyone in the White House or the administration ask Irish television or its reporter, Carol Coleman, to submit questions in advance of her interview with the President last Wednesday?
MR. McCLELLAN: Bill, a couple of things. I saw I guess some reports on that. I don't know what every individual office -- whatever discussions that they have with reporters in terms of interviews. But obviously, the President was -- is pleased to sit down and do interviews with journalists, both from abroad, as well as here at home, and to talk about the priorities of this administration. And I think anytime that there is an interview that's going to take place, obviously there are staff-level discussions with reporters before that interview and to --
Q -- what are the --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, to talk about what issues might be on their mind, and stuff. That's -- but, reporters --
Q That's not the same thing as asking for --
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me finish. Let me finish.
Q -- and my question is, were questions asked for.
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me finish. Reporters, when they meet with the President, can ask whatever questions they want. And any suggestion to the contrary is just --
Q Right, but that doesn't answer the question. Did somebody in the administration ask her for questions in advance, and is that your policy?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, in terms -- you're talking my policy?
Q No, the administration's policy.
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know what an individual staffer may or may not have asked specifically of this reporter, but some of these interviews are set up by people outside of my direct office and control.
Q Well, will you say from this lectern that it is not the policy of this White House to ask for questions in advance?
MR. McCLELLAN: Will you let me complete what I'm trying to say? Thank you. Just hold on a second. As I said, and you know very well from covering this White House, that any time a reporter sits down with the President, they are welcome to ask whatever questions they want to ask.
Q Yes, but that's beside the point.
MR. McCLELLAN: And certainly there will be staff-level discussions, talking about what issues reporters may want to bring up in some of these interviews. I mean, that happens all the time.
Q Indeed, it does.
MR. McCLELLAN: So reporters are able to ask whatever questions they want, Bill.
Q Right, but that wasn't my question. (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll be glad to look into this further.
Q Is it policy to ask for questions in advance?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I don't know what some individual staffer may have done in another office, specifically in terms of this question that you're asking. I'll be glad to look into it. But reporters can ask the President whatever questions they want. I think we've addressed this question.
Q Is it your policy to ask for questions in advance?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, it is not my policy. In fact, if reporters would give me their questions, this press briefing would be a whole lot easier, I'm sure. But that's not my policy.
Q Sometimes you might answer them. (Laughter.)
Q I'll be glad to give you a question --
Q Just before I get on to my question, what you're saying is, you didn't ask anyone, but someone in the press office might have asked, and you're not sure --
MR. McCLELLAN: Not in my office.
Q But someone in media affairs or communications --
MR. McCLELLAN: These interviews are set up by another office. I'll be glad to take a look into it. But regardless, the reporter can ask
whatever question they want. This interview is past us.
Q So now I'm going to ask the question that I want to ask, which is --
Q -- might not be able to if there's a pre-brief.
MR. McCLELLAN: Helen, you know that that's wrong. Reporters can ask whatever they want when they see the President.
Q Okay, I'd like to ask the President some questions. (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sure you would.
Q This morning, on the economy, you said that the rise in interest rates is -- you're not worried about that because the economy is growing and more people are finding work. Does that mean that you're not at all concerned about inflation?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, both interest rates and inflation continue to remain at historically low levels. Our economy is strong and growing stronger because of the policies the President put in place: 1.4 million new jobs have been created since last August; we've had nine straight months of consecutive job growth; we see the real after-tax disposal income that people have is up 11 percent; consumer confidence, as we just saw earlier this week, is up significantly. So as the economy grows and jobs are being created, I think it's always expected that a rate increase would be part of that strengthening economy. It is a reflection of our strong economy that these things might happen.
Q So that's a no, basically?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, it's not. I said that it still remains at a low level.
Q So you're not concerned about it then? So, I mean, you're not concerned about it rising?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, that's what I said.
Q And secondly, without biting the hand that feeds me, why did you feel -- you had some -- clearly you had some talking points there. Why did you feel that it was necessary to make these comments on the rate hikes which, as you know --
MR. McCLELLAN: Make comments on what?
Q On the expected rate hike which, as you know, often the administration defers on these kind of --
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I'm not trying to preempt what may be announced later today, but I'm just pointing out the reality of the situation. We have a very strong economy and it is growing stronger. New jobs are being created. As I pointed out, the money that people have available, after-tax, disposable income is up significantly. And I think a lot of people have talked about how, as the economy grows, that a rate increase may follow along with it.
Q Scott, a two-part. Senator Frist has scheduled Senate action on the federal marriage amendment for next week, just before the democratic convention, so that voters can see how Senator Kerry is either absent or how he demonstrates his real approval of same-sex marriage by voting no. And my question: The President fully supports the Senate Majority Leader's decision, doesn't he?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President believes strongly in protecting the sanctity of marriage, and he has expressed his strong support for that amendment. And Congress is working to move forward on that.
Q Right. Both the Jerusalem Post and the Zionist Organization of America have recalled that during the 2000 campaign, Governor Bush pledged that if elected he would, "begin the process of moving our embassy to Jerusalem on my first day in office." But after not doing anything of the kind on his first day in office, or over the last four years, he has just reinvoked the national security clause which enables him to postpone fulfilling the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 if the embassy move would endanger national security. And my question: Has the President ever asked our pro-Palestinian State Department how we can possibly put an embassy in Baghdad and not in Jerusalem?
MR. McCLELLAN: First of all, Les, I think the departments within the administration recognize that they are here to support and carry out the policies of the President. And we appreciate all the great work Secretary Powell and all those men and women at the State Department in helping us to meet our objectives.
In terms of what you brought up, the President remains committed to that objective. As you pointed out, other Presidents have extended this, as well, for national security reasons. What we need to do is get the parties working on moving forward on the road map again, so that we can realize the two-state vision, and so that we can achieve some of these other objectives, as well.
Q Is Jerusalem more dangerous than Baghdad?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think you know that there is no stronger supporter of the people of Israel than the President of the United States.
Q This morning in the gaggle you said you'd have some more details on the President's economic remarks Friday. Do you have those details?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I said I'd probably have that tomorrow, actually, I think.
Q Okay, fine. The second question, then, is the President concerned that he doesn't seem to be getting much credit for improvement in the economy? Does that concern him?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think -- I mean, people bring out polls all the time in this room. I think if you see some of the numbers on the economy, that there have been some growing support for the direction the economy is moving. I think that we will -- one, the President will continue to speak out about the policies that we have put in place, because he believes they are the right policies for this country, and that they have led to a strong economic recovery.
There is still more to do. The President's highest priorities are winning the war on terrorism, which we talked about at the beginning, and strengthening our economy. And he will continue to talk about the policies that we have put in place and the need to build on those policies. I mean, there are some out there who continue to have a pessimistic view and talk down the economy. This President has an optimistic view because he knows that the policies that we have put in place are working. And all you have to do is look at the different economic indicators to recognize that our economy is strong and growing stronger. As I pointed out, look at the jobs that are being created. Look at the other steps that have been taken. But there is more that we need to do. We have to recognize that we're in a changing economy, as well. The President wants to continue to make sure that America remains the best place in the world to do business, and he will continue acting on the economy to meet that commitment.
Q These pessimists, do they have names or anything?
MR. McCLELLAN: You know full well who they are. They speak about every day.
Q Scott, jumping back to John's question. How long was it under consideration for the ready Reserve to be activated? And did the deliberations actually make into this building --
MR. McCLELLAN: Ken, as I pointed out, those are determinations that are made by military leaders and commanders, in terms of what resources and troops levels that they need to carry out their objectives. And then they work to make the determinations about how to meet those needs. And so they'll be speaking to this shortly. You ought to direct those questions to those officials.
Q Had the President secured more troops from NATO allies or NATO itself, would we have been able to avoid activating the ready reserve?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Ken, we have -- there are 16 -- including the United States, 16 countries that are members of --
Q Had we gotten some more troops in addition --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- hang on -- that are members of NATO who are helping in Iraq right now. There are some 30 nations that have troops in Iraq helping the Iraqi people. But what's most important is we need to continue to increase the number of troops there. But when I talk about increasing troop levels, I'm talking about increasing Iraqi troop levels, when it comes to the police forces and the border patrols and the army and the civilian defense forces. And so that's what our commitment is, because, ultimately, they will assume full responsibility for their future.
Q So this decision was not incumbent upon whether or not more troops --
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I think that the Department of Defense is talking more about this very issue. You can address those issues to them. We are a nation at war, a nation at war against terrorism, and we're making great progress. And there are many in our military who are part of that war on terrorism, and we are forever grateful for the service and sacrifice that they are making, and we're forever grateful for the service and sacrifice of their families, as well. Those who sign up for our military do so voluntarily, and they do so with a commitment that they are part of helping to make the world a better place and to make America more secure. And they recognize the important tasks that they have before them.
Q Is there any truth to reports that we're hearing that the administration is considering moving some of the detainees from Guantanamo to another location?
MR. McCLELLAN: Richard, I would not try to jump into any speculation at this point. These are issues we're discussing right now, and as I said, we're moving forward on the fast track to address the concerns that the Supreme Court raised and do so in a way that is consistent with the President's authority as Commander-in-Chief to carry out the war on terrorism.
Q Thank you, and welcome back. My first question was -- you answered most of it, about President Chirac and Turkey. But what will the President do to try and make sure Turkey gets in the EU?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think we'll continue to make clear our view. The President was pleased to go to Turkey and meet with Prime Minister Erdogan and talk about these issues. And he has talked -- he has stated our view going back quite some time on this very issue. And he has made our belief very well-known. And so we will continue to talk about the importance of addressing these concerns and heeding Turkey's aspirations.
Q I have another question, please. After giving an award to Rita Moreno, is there any truth to the rumor that the President plans to replace Vice President Cheney with Ms. Moreno to get the Hispanic vote or the Puerto Rican vote?
MR. McCLELLAN: She is a wonderful entertainer. The President was pleased to present her the Medal of Freedom and welcome her here to the White House, but he's also honored to have someone of the Vice President's capabilities and leadership to be a part of this administration.
Q So that's no -- wait a minute, that's no -- (laughter).
MR. McCLELLAN: I think you can take it as a "no."
Q Scott, former U.N. Ambassador, Richard Holbrook, yesterday likened Monday's --
MR. McCLELLAN: How long were you on that plane?
Q Too long.
Q Richard Holbrook likened Monday's accelerated transfer of sovereignty in Iraq to America sneaking out of Saigon in the middle of the night. How's the administration going to deal with those who would paint every victory in Iraq as a defeat?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think all you have to do is look to the new leaders who are in place in Iraq and look to the Iraqi people to recognize that that is a view that really has little basis and fact. The Iraqi people are committed to moving forward on a brighter future, and committed to building a free and peaceful nation. I just -- look -- we're going to continue talking about what we're working to accomplish and how important that is, not only to the Iraqi people, but to the region and to the world, and to the long-term security of our country.
Q A poll in Iraq says that the Prime Minister Allawi has approval ratings of --
MR. McCLELLAN: Hang on one second. And I would point out that some of those same critics saying that we weren't going to be able to transfer sovereignty by June 30th. And, in fact, the process began weeks ago when the Iraqi people started assuming responsibility for their ministries. That was completed last week when they assumed responsibility for all the different ministries in Iraq. They were ready to assume responsibility and move forward on that. It was a decision that was made by Prime Minister Allawi. And we're pleased that they -- that the Iraqi people have strong and capable leaders in place to -- that are committed to building a better future for all Iraqis.
Q You spoke about pessimism earlier. How damaging is pessimism to this process going forward in Iraq?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, like I said, I think most people reject those views that you're hearing, and we will continue talking out -- talking about the important mission that we're working to accomplish in Iraq and how we're there to help the Iraqi people build a free and democratic and peaceful future.
END 1:55 P.M. EDT
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