For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 10, 2004
Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Pensacola, Florida
10:27 A.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me go with the President's day. He had his usual briefings this morning. Then he made the announcement of the new Director of Central -- his nominee to be the new Director of Central Intelligence, in the Rose Garden. You have those remarks.
And when we arrive in Pensacola, Florida, the President will make remarks at a rally there. From there we go to Niceville, Florida -- so something for everybody in the press corps to keep in mind, this is Niceville. (Laughter.) And he'll participate in an "Ask President Bush." Obviously, he'll talk about some of his broader priorities, but I think some of the remarks will focus on his job training initiatives and his 21st century initiative for making sure workers are trained for the jobs of the 21st century. So he'll talk a little bit about making sure we have an educated workforce. And some of the participants in that "Ask President Bush" will be people who have gone back to community college, for example, and re-trained to fill some of the new high-growth, high-paying jobs of the 21st century.
Then from there, we go to Panama City, where he'll make remarks this evening at a Florida rally. And then we overnight at the Bush Ranch, before going on to New Mexico and Arizona tomorrow.
One update on the schedule. On Monday, the 16th, the President will make remarks to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio. And that's on Monday, the 16th.
I guess that's what I've got. I'm here for --
Q Any changes to the stump speech?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- your questions.
Q Any wrinkles?
MR. McCLELLAN: There typically tend to be a few. So you'll be there to cover it.
Q Are you satisfied with Senator Kerry's explanation that he would have voted for the war?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll tell you, I think it is an intriguing new nuance. First, the Senator voted for the war in Iraq. Then during the Democratic primary, he switches positions and declares he is the anti-war candidate. Then, just yesterday, with less than 90 days to go before the election, the Senator now says -- or now agrees it was the right decision to go into Iraq.
So, you know, I think we appreciate him finally clearing things up with less than 90 days before the election to go. This is after all this time, and after months of questioning the President's motives, the Senator now agrees with the President that knowing what we know now, it was right to go into Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein's regime from power -- even though we haven't found the stockpiles of weapons that we all believed were there.
Q That's not what he said. He said he would have voted to give the President the authority.
MR. McCLELLAN: He said, I'll answer the President's question directly: yes. And so now he has finally come up and cleared things up with a new nuance, with less than 90 days to go before the election and he now agrees that it was the right decision to go into Iraq.
Q That's not what he said, though.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, knowing what we know now, that it was the right decision to go into Iraq.
Q Can I ask you about --
MR. MCCLELLAN: He is, as on other issues, he ahs been all over the map when it comes to this one on Iraq.
Q Al Sadr says he wants to "I fight to the last drop of blood." How dangerous is this situation right now?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you heard the President's comments yesterday, when he said that we appear to be making good progress toward bringing stability to the situation in Najaf. Obviously, the Iraqi forces are stepping up to address this violence that is going on in Najaf and some other areas. Prime Minister Allawi has stated very clearly that he is determined to defeat those who want to derail the transition to democracy. And our forces are there to partner with the Iraqi security forces to address these ongoing security threats.
Q You're not concerned about this powder keg running out of control?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, about what?
Q This volatile situation running out of control.
MR. McCLELLAN: You heard from the President yesterday, and that's still where things stand. We appear to be making good progress to bring about stability in Najaf.
Q Can I ask you also about Porter Goss and the prospect of an ugly confirmation hearing in an election season?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, obviously, we hope Congress will move forward quickly to --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the Senate, I guess, the Senate will move forward quickly on his nomination. Chairman Goss is someone, as the President said, is uniquely qualified to serve in this position and someone who has a record dedicated to positive change within the intelligence community. He brings great experience to the position.
But I would also point out, we have a very capable leader at the CIA right now, in the Acting Director, John McLaughlin.
Q What's your level concern Democrats make hay out of this, in the weeks running up to the election?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, make hay in what sense? I think Chairman Goss is someone who enjoys broad bipartisan respect. He is someone who enjoys respect on both sides of the aisle, and I think that his nomination will be warmly received by bipartisan leaders in Congress.
Q Well, the 9/11 report, though, said that congressional oversight was dysfunctional. He's been responsible for congressional oversight for a considerable period of time. I mean, won't that be a problem for him?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, he is someone -- like I said -- like the President said, he is someone that is a reformer and someone who has been dedicated to positive change within the intelligence community. He's someone who is committed to expanding our human intelligence capacity. He's someone committed to investing in the kinds of technologies we need to stay ahead of the terrorists and continue to -- so we can continue to defeat them and disrupt their plans.
So I think he is someone that has the kind of experience and expertise needed to do an outstanding job in this position, and so does the President.
Q Jay Rockefeller had already raised some questions about him earlier, before this happened. Do you think that's going to be a problem?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think, as I said, he's someone who has broad bipartisan respect and is someone who brings unique and broad experience to the position. And so we expect he will be well-received within Congress.
Q Scott, he's nominated to a position that may disappear soon, with the new NID. Is it expected that he would be in a position to be the NID, once that position --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think it's premature to speculate about a National Intelligence Director at this point. We're moving forward to work with Congress on getting that position created in the first place. I just think it's premature to speculate about any decision on the National Intelligence Director, and I wouldn't rule anything in or out.
Q Will that be created before the election?
MR. McCLELLAN: And just so you know, you all might want a little bit of color here. The President had dinner with Chairman Goss last night at the White House, and that is where he formally offered him the nomination. Andy Card was also there.
Q When did he make up his mind about Goss?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, as I said, he offered it yesterday --
Q Was it weeks ago?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, in the process, I think it would be accurate to describe it as there were several candidates that were under consideration. The President I know visited with Chairman Goss a couple of weeks ago. It was clear to the President that Chairman Goss was the best person to fill this position, and that's why he offered him the nomination last night, and they announced it this morning.
Q And is Karen** going to be traveling from here on out, or is she working on the convention speech?
MR. McCLELLAN: You might want to double-check with the campaign. She's going to be traveling this week and I expect she will be traveling for the most part from here on out. There might be a little bit of a period here before the convention, I think, where she won't be on the road with us. But for the most part, she will be traveling with the President.
Q Is she working on his speech, as well?
MR. McCLELLAN: Are you talking about the convention speech? Our speechwriters are leading that effort and they continue to -- and the President continues to work on his convention speech. I don't have anymore tick-tock. I think it's a little early to tick-tock that right now.
Q When are you going to roll out more specifics of his second term agenda?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he's continuing to do that over the course of the weeks leading up to the convention, and I expect he will do so in his convention speech, as well. You heard him last week talk about -- I mean, you heard him a couple of weeks ago start to lay out some of the broad themes of a second term agenda. And then last week, you heard him focus some on the importance of giving families the option to spend more time with their children, giving parents the option to spend more time with their children through comp-time and flex-time. This week he's been focusing on ushering in an era of ownership, as he did yesterday. He's continuing to talk about the importance of making sure we have an educated workforce to meet the jobs of the changing economy that we are in. So he's continuing to talk about his agenda moving forward, that builds upon the record of results he has had over the last three, four years.
Q Scott, last week the President said he'd consider a constitutional amendment that somehow guaranteed voting rights. As we head into Florida today, what's the status of that, do you know?
MR. McCLELLAN: There's no update. He said it was something he would consider. But as he also pointed out, it's important that we continue to encourage everybody to get out and exercise their right to vote. Ultimately, it's the responsibility of the people to get out there and vote, and we need to continue to encourage all people to participate in the process in every way that we can. And that's what we will continue to do.
Q Can you imagine him making a decision before this election on that amendment?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't have any update on what he said.
Q If you could -- I'd be grateful.
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think there's any update at this point, to what he said.
Q Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are coming out with their book today. Anything more, whether the President would repudiate what they've said about Kerry's record in Vietnam?
MR. McCLELLAN: You heard last week, I mean, we made it very -- let's not be selective here, because the issue here is looking at this unregulated soft money advertising and activity that is going on. And we made it very clear last week that the President deplores all the unregulated soft money ads and activity that are going on. And that's why we called on the Kerry campaign to join us in calling for an end to all of this unregulated soft money advertising and activity that is going on.
And, unfortunately, he has declined to do that. I think this is another example of where Senator Kerry was for something, or against something, before he was the other way on it. He appears to have been against soft money in the first place, now he appears to be for it in limited circumstances. He should join us in calling for an end to all of this unregulated soft money activity by these shadowy groups. That's what the President thought we got rid of when he signed the campaign finance reforms into law. And I think that -- you know, the ads and stuff that you're talking about are just more examples of the kind of problem with this unregulated soft money activity.
Q I'm not asking you about the soft money, I'm asking you about the substance of the attack on Kerry.
MR. McCLELLAN: That's why I said that this goes to the problem with unregulated soft money activity that the President thought we ended when he signed the campaign finance reforms into law, that had broad bipartisan support.
Q On the substance, are these guys wrong to attack Kerry's record in Vietnam?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, the American people are going to be the ultimate ones that make decisions in this election. I think what our position is, is what I said last week: the President deplores all of the unregulated soft money advertising and activity that is going on and Senator Kerry should join us in calling for an end to all of this activity.
The President is the one who has been on the receiving end of more than $62 million in this kind of negative advertising from shadowy groups that are funded by this unregulated soft money. So Senator Kerry should join us in calling for an end to all of this kind of advertising and activity.
** Karen will travel today only this week, and then begin traveling with the President full-time beginning next week.
END 10:41 A.M. EDT