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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 28, 2004
Press Gaggle by Trent Duffy
Crawford Middle School
2:58 P.M. CDT
MR. DUFFY: Good afternoon. The President had his regular intelligence briefings this morning, and was then briefed on the progress being made on the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. President Bush's most solemn priority is the safety and security of the American people, which is why he created this task force to analyze the commission's recommendations. President Bush has made it clear that he will waste no time in acting on those efforts that will make America safer. The conference on the 9/11 Commission recommendations lasted approximately 30 minutes, and the entire task force was represented, including the Vice President.
The President then taped some new ads for his reelection campaign, and for more details on that, I would refer you to the campaign headquarters in Arlington.
Following that, he went mountain biking for roughly one hour and 19 minutes, according to the President, and the ride was for about 18 miles.
I have one international call to read out to you. The President today spoke with Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia for roughly 10 minutes. The President thanked the Crown Prince for meeting with Secretary Powell today, and the two of them discussed the situation in Iraq and Saudi Arabia's efforts to fight terrorism on its own soil.
With that, I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have.
Q Anything new, Trent, on the White House decision on extending the life of the 9/11 Commission? We haven't really gotten a straight answer on that.
MR. DUFFY: The President's main focus right now is on analyzing the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission and taking those steps that will make America safer. And that's where his focus is. The task force continues to deliberate, not only the recommendations, but this latest proposal. And I would refer you to the campaign, the Bush-Cheney campaign for any reaction to Senator Kerry's potential motivations for putting that proposal out there.
Q Is there any progress on those recommendations? And is there a concern that, perhaps, those who are saying we should move quickly, that perhaps it's moving too fast?
MR. DUFFY: There is progress being made on the recommendations. This was the second conference that the President held with Secretary Card. There are recommendations that have the potential to be put into place quickly. And the President, as I said, would waste no time in doing that. But these are very big issues. And the task force's job is to analyze them, to deliberate them carefully, so that we seize the opportunity to make those kind of changes, both in the short and long-term, to make America safer and to make sure that the President has the best intelligence that the community can offer.
Q Can you describe what that progress is, other than the second meeting?
MR. DUFFY: No, just that there are further deliberations and they are moving very quickly.
Q Has the President been watching the Democratic Convention? And will he watch Edwards tonight and Kerry tomorrow night?
MR. DUFFY: Well, obviously, the President has a great stake in this election, a personal stake, and he has been keeping an eye on it. He has been monitoring closely, as you might imagine, the events in Boston. But he knows that the American League East won't be decided until September. (Laughter.)
Q Trent, in the phone call with the Crown Prince, did they touch on the possibility of sending Muslim troops to Iraq?
MR. DUFFY: I just have what I read out to you, Olivier.
Q Claire told us over the weekend that the President brought down the 9/11 report -- has he finished reading it?
MR. DUFFY: He's got it with him. He has been reading it as part of the deliberations with the task force. He is continuing to consult it.
Q You said he's "monitoring closely." Can you say whether he's actually watched any of the convention on TV?
MR. DUFFY: He has watched some of it from time to time.
Q Trent, is it still likely that we could have a decision on some of the 9/11 recommendations within days?
MR. DUFFY: I think that is accurate for some of the recommendations. The commission is going through some very serious deliberations on these very fundamental questions. We have an historic opportunity to improve and make changes to our intelligence capabilities as we fight this war on terror, and that's why they're proceeding at an appropriate pace.
We want to move quickly, but we want to get it done right, and that's why he has his top advisors going through all these recommendations.
Q And how is this coordinating with the deliberations over naming a permanent CIA Director?
MR. DUFFY: Well, that's obviously part of it. As you know, we don't speculate on timing or other personnel decisions. But the President has great confidence in Director McLaughlin. He is serving the American people and the intelligence community and the President very capably, and that will be part of the consideration as we move forward.
Q What can you say about the violence today in Iraq? It was a really bad day, the police recruit --
MR. DUFFY: Yes, this attack on the Iraqi people is a terrible tragedy and the U.S. condemns this attack in the strongest terms. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims. But this underscores why the Iraqi people, with the help of the world, must and will prevail over terrorism in Iraq. Despite this violence, it's clear that the Iraqi people are seizing this historic opportunity to create a more peaceful, prosperous and democratic society. The new Iraqi army and police force are stepping up and providing for their own security. NATO and the international community are extending aid. And the reason there is such a united effort to prevail in Iraq is because the world recognizes that a free and peaceful Iraq will make the world a safer and better place.
Q Trent, can you tell us what the state of the White House thinking is on the possible creation of a National Intelligence Director, or what kind of obstacles there might be to the creation of such a post?
MR. DUFFY: I don't have anything further on the specific recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. Obviously, that's a high profile one and it's getting a lot of consideration and thought by the President's task force, as well it should be.
Q And on a different subject, Iyad Allawi, in Lebanon the other day, said that Iraq will not be establishing normalized relations with Israel until all the other Arab nations do so. Is that something that the United States government approves of?
MR. DUFFY: I don't have anything for you on that, James. I'd refer you to the State Department for any immediate comment. I suspect, generally, that it's up to Iraq to decide what kinds of foreign relations it wants to have with other countries.
Q Trent, when do you expect to release your new budget deficit numbers? The congressional numbers suggest that the deficit could be $420 billion, which Gene Sperling says is a new record for fiscal mismanagement and deficit spending.
MR. DUFFY: Well, let's remember what caused the deficit. The economy and the recession took a great toll on federal revenues. Obviously, the President's response to that recession was an aggressive economic program based on tax relief. And then the terrorists hit us, and that required some appropriate spending increases, not only to fight the global war on terror, but to protect the homeland.
And those three factors combined have created the deficit. It is still relatively small, given where we are as far as its relation to the economy, which is the appropriate measure. The administration is working on its mid-session budget review. We want to make sure we have the most accurate data. One thing I can say is that the economy, that's created 1.5 million jobs since August, is having an effect on the Treasury, and we would expect that that will show itself in the new budget projections.
But the President is on track to cut the deficit in half over the next five years through a combination of continued economic growth, as well as serious spending restraint.
Q Trent, when do you expect to release those numbers?
MR. DUFFY: You can talk with OMB for an exact date. I know they're going through the final preparations now.
Q Trent, there are some who say the numbers have been delayed in their release -- I guess they were due on the 15th -- so as not to give the Democrats any more fodder during their convention.
MR. DUFFY: I think the Democrats have shown that they have lots of fodder for their convention.
Q What does the President make of what he saw at the Democratic Convention?
MR. DUFFY: I'd just leave it where I did, Scott. He's watching it. He's got an obvious interest in this election. He's said many times that he's going to be campaigning aggressively, and he looks forward to a good campaign.
Q A little bit every day?
MR. DUFFY: I'll just leave it at what I said.
Q Can I ask you, too, about Michael Moore, what the President knows and what he thinks about the film tonight?
MR. DUFFY: I don't have anything on that.
Q How long did the ad taping go on for today?
MR. DUFFY: You can contact the campaign for those types of details. I think -- I think, generally --
Q More than --
MR. DUFFY: Well, I'd have to get that for you, James. I just -- anything further?
Q Will there be a still photo release of the President's videoconference with the task force today?
MR. DUFFY: I don't have anything on that, but I can ask.
Q Do you know if the President is even aware of the fact that this movie is going to be shown in Crawford tonight?
MR. DUFFY: I don't have anything for you on that, Maura.
Okay, thank you.
END 3:06 P.M. CDT