For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 18, 2004
Press Gaggle by Scott Mcclellan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Eau Claire, Wisconsin
11:31 A.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: All right, let's get started. The President had
his usual briefings before we departed the White House. He just a
short time ago finished an interview with Newsweek here on the plane.
We will be going on a bus tour today, starting in Chippewa Falls,
Wisconsin, where the President will make remarks. There will be a
couple of new initiatives that he'll announce in these remarks that
further demonstrates the President's commitment to supporting our
troops. These are education-related initiatives to support our Guard
and Reservists, and to support our military families who frequently
move. And we'll have a fact sheet for you on the ground.
Following that, we'll then go to Hudson, Wisconsin, where the
President will participate in an Ask President Bush event. And from
there, we go to St. Paul, Minnesota, where he will make remarks at a
rally. Then we go to Crawford, where we'll be for the next several
days. That's all I've got. I'm here for your questions.
Q What does the Bush administration really think that Sadr --
his long-term goal is there in Iraq? Is it just to kick the troops
out, or is because he maybe -- does the administration think that maybe
he's going to be a leader of a kind of an Iranian-style government
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, I think you need to direct
those questions to -- I think it's better to direct those questions to
the interim Iraqi government, because it is a sovereign nation now.
Prime Minister Allawi and the interim government are working to bring
about a resolution to the situation in Najaf. And coalition forces are
there to support the efforts of the interim Iraqi government. And
there are some ongoing developments there. An Iraqi delegation sent by
the national conference has -- went to Najaf to try to bring about a
resolution to the situation. I think the Iraqi people want to see the
militia disarmed and the violence ended in Najaf. And that's what
you're seeing Iraqi leaders work to address.
Q What does the administration think he's trying to achieve
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I don't speak for Sadr, but like I said, we
are there to partner with the Iraqi government, which is a sovereign
one, as they work to address these security issues that they continue
to face. And they're working about to -- they're working to bring
about a resolution to the situation in Najaf.
Q There's a new ad by MoveOn.org that talks about -- that
criticizes Bush's record in the National Guard. What's your response
to that, and what do you say to Harkin, who called Cheney a coward for
MR. McCLELLAN: We have been on the receiving end of more than $62
million in negative political attacks from these shadowy groups that
are funded by unregulated soft money. And the President has condemned
all of the ads and activity going on by these shadowy groups. We've
called on Senator Kerry to join us and call for an end to all of this
unregulated soft money activity. And so we continue to call on him to
join us in condemning all these ads and calling for an end to all of
Q What about Senator Harkin, who called the Vice President a
MR. McCLELLAN: That's just more negative political attacks by the
Kerry campaign and the supporters of the Kerry campaign.
Q But, Scott, the MoveOn.org ad, back to that. Senator Kerry
denounced the ad specifically, saying it's not indicative of their --
the way they feel about the Bush service in the National Guard. He
specifically denounced the ad, which is something that they're saying
the Bush-Cheney campaign has not specifically done about the Swift
MR. McCLELLAN: Let's be clear here. What the senator did was, he
said one thing at the same time his campaign was doing another. His
campaign went out there and essentially promoted this false negative
attack at the same time Senator Kerry was saying he condemned it. The
President has condemned all of this kind of activity, and he should
join us in doing the same and calling for an end to all of it.
Apparently he was against soft money before he was for it. And the
President thought he got rid of all of this unregulated soft money
activity when he signed the bipartisan campaign finance reforms into
law. And so it's another example of -- the senator's latest comments
are another example of him saying one thing and doing another.
Q Scott, what kind of pre-convention things is the President
going to be doing down at the ranch?
MR. McCLELLAN: I certainly expect he'll be working on his remarks
for the convention. In terms of other activities, I'll try to keep you
posted. I'll be down there. Are you going to be joining us? Great.
I hope -- well, everybody, I guess, on board here will be here,
hopefully for the whole week. But I'll try to keep you posted on some
of that. I mean, he'll be tending to official business, he'll be
tending to some campaign business, as well, such as preparing for the
convention, and he'll also be getting a little bit of down time prior
to the final home stretch of the campaign.
Q Can I ask you about Kerry, the VFW speech today. He's
specifically going to take on the President's reposturing plan, and say
it's bad for allies, it's given a free pass to North Korea. What's
your response to that? And he's also going to say that President Bush
hasn't really done as much for vets as he said in his speech,
indicating 500,000 without health care --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, let me take the last question
you raised there. His false attacks on our support for veterans have
been discredited. Under the President, funding* for our veterans has
more than doubled over the previous eight years. And this President
has made sure we fulfilled our commitment to our nation's veterans, by
increasing the health care funding for our veterans by more than 40
percent, and as I pointed out, by more than doubling the funding* of
the previous eight years for our veterans. So it sounds like it's more
of the same false attacks that have already been discredited.
In terms of the defense posture -- I think was the first part of
your question -- I think it shows a lack of understanding of the new
threats we face. The Cold War is over. We must continue to transform
our military to better protect the American people against the
dangerous -- against the dangers of the 21st century. That's what this
new plan that the President announced the other day, which we have been
working on for more than three years, does. That's exactly what it
We will realign our forces and strengthen our military capabilities
so that we're in a better position to fight and win the war on
terrorism. And we've -- I think it shows a 20th century, Cold
War-way-of-thinking when someone makes such comments.
I would point out, too -- well, let me mention, too, that what
we're doing is transforming the military, in part, by building a more
flexible, more agile, more lethal, and more technologically advanced
troop structure. I think it's important to look at what we're doing in
terms of strengthening our military capabilities. This President has
made a strong commitment to strengthening our military capability so
that we can fight and win the war on the war on terrorism and so that
we can better confront the threats of the 21st century, which include
the global war on terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and rogue
states. That's exactly what we're doing.
And I would point out that on August 1st, Senator Kerry said, and I
quote, "I think we can significantly change the deployment of troops,
not just there -- he was referring to Iraq -- not just there, but
elsewhere in the world. In the Korean Peninsula, perhaps, and Europe,
perhaps, there are great possibilities open to us, but this
administration has had very little imagination." And then he went on.
That was on "This Week" on August 1st.
Q Scott, was Secretary Rumsfeld speaking for the administration
when he said that it should be a go slow approach to the 9/11
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you've heard the President's and
Secretary Rumsfeld -- that's not all he said. He talked -- he put it
in the context of the current situation. We are a nation at war, and
we have to -- we have to move forward recognizing that we are -- we are
continuing to fight and win the war on terrorism.
And the President has made it clear that he wants to move forward
quickly and responsibly. Actions we take in one area of our national
security can have an impact in other areas of our national security.
And so we must move forward in a deliberate, serious manner. The
President is strongly committed to creating the National Intelligence
Director, and we're -- Congress is working to address it, and we will
continue working with Congress and move forward -- to move forward in a
quick and responsible manner.
Q Is he going to establish an executive order? What about
giving the NID budgetary authority?
MR. McCLELLAN: We continue to work through those details. The
President made it very clear that it's important to have a National
Intelligence Director that has the authority he or she needs to do the
job and do it effectively. So we continue to work through the
details. And we'll have more to say on those details as we move
forward. There have been some reports, continuing through today, even
after -- well, from the beginning, we said that it's important that the
National Intelligence Director have significant authority so that they
can be effective.
And there continue to be some misleading press reports which say
that we originally opposed budget authority, or I noticed in one major
national paper today -- in another major national paper, they continue
to say that we've called for limited authority for the National
Intelligence Director. We've said from very early on that we're
continuing to work through those details. And so I don't know how
anyone can characterize it in such a way, when we have not ruled
anything out at this point.
Q You have not ruled out Warner's proposal for, basically, just
to expand the CIA Director's powers rather than create an NID?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President strongly supports creation of the
National -- the creation of a National Intelligence Director. And
that's what he is committed to doing, along with creating the
Counterterrorism Center, as well.
Q What do you think of Kerry campaigning during the
convention? Kerry is going to speak to the American Legion September
MR. McCLELLAN: You might want to ask the campaign. See if they
responded to that.
Q Do you know when Bush is speaking?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q American Legion. Do you know when Bush is speaking in their
-- at their national convention?
MR. McCLELLAN: We'll get you -- we'll get you the week ahead later
this week. I'll have to check. Let me check.
All right, thanks.
END 11:45 A.M. EDT
* by nearly doubling the funding increase of the previous eight