|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 5, 2004
Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Columbus, Ohio
12:09 A.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon. The President had his usual briefings before he departed, and then he signed the Department of Defense Appropriations Act for 2005.
There will be a Freedom Corps greeter upon arrival, I'll get you the name when we get on the ground. And following that, the President will participate in an "Ask President Bush" in Columbus, Ohio. You all should have a fact sheet. And there will be -- the focus of the discussion will be on providing working families with flex- and comp-time, so that they can have the flexibility and option to be able to spend more time with their families, so parents can.
And then following that, we will go to Michigan, and there will be a Freedom Corps greeter there, and I will get you the names -- I didn't bring them with me. And then the President will make remarks at a Saginaw, Michigan rally.
That's all I've got, so I'm here for your questions.
Q Do you -- does the President repudiate this 527 ad that calls Kerry a liar on Vietnam?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President deplores all the unregulated soft money activity. We have been very clear in stating that, you know, we will not -- and we have not and we will not question Senator Kerry's service in Vietnam. I think that this is another example of the problem with the unregulated soft money activity that is going on. The President thought he put an end -- or the President thought he got rid of this kind of unregulated soft money when he signed the bipartisan campaign finance reforms into law.
And, you know, the President has been on the receiving end of more than $62 million in negative attacks from shadowy groups. The President is calling for an immediate cessation to all the unregulated soft money activity. He believes that it should all be stopped. The unregulated soft money activity that is going on does nothing to elevate the discourse. We hope the Kerry campaign will join us in calling for an end to all the unregulated soft money ads and activity.
Q So the President joins McCain in criticizing this particular ad?
MR. McCLELLAN: We hope the Kerry campaign will join us in calling for an end to all the unregulated soft money ads and activity that are going on. Again, the President has been on the receiving end of more than $62 million in negative attacks from shadowy groups. And the President thought he got rid of this kind of activity when he signed the bipartisan campaign finance reforms into law. This campaign should be about the issues and it should be about the records.
Q Scott, more specifically, though, will the President or the campaign ask this particular group to pull this particular ad off the air?
MR. McCLELLAN: We're calling for a cessation to all the unregulated soft money activity, and we hope that the Kerry campaign will join us.
Q Scott, during the primaries in 2000, or I guess during the Republican Presidential Primaries, an unregulated ad was run against John McCain. At the time, the governor said, "We don't have anything to do with it." Can you give us a sense of the evolution, what's changed from, we don't have anything to do with it, to, let's all stop it.
MR. McCLELLAN: The President supported the bipartisan campaign finance reforms that were passed, and he felt that they improved the system. And that's why he signed them into law. We should have a level playing field for candidates and parties. You have, right now, a problem with these unregulated soft money groups. These were loopholes that we thought were closed when the President signed the campaign finance reforms into law. And so the President believes that all the unregulated soft money activity should stop. We hope the Kerry campaign will join us in calling for an end to all this kind of activity.
The President knows what it's like to be on the receiving end of more than $62 million in negative attacks from these kinds of shadowy groups.
Q Scott, today Senator Kerry was speaking at the Unity Conference, where President Bush will speak tomorrow. And he called America, "a house divided," and said that minorities in America still do not have enough civil rights, and that he would move to fix that. Is there any response from you guys?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the campaign probably has already responded to some of those comments. I think they're familiar comments that we've heard. The President has a proven record of expanding opportunity for all Americans and has a strong record that he is proud of when it comes to improving the quality of life for all Americans. And we welcome the opportunity to talk about the records and the agendas that the candidates have. And you heard the President recently speak to the National Urban League. And the President is going to continue reaching out to all Americans, including the African American community and Hispanics -- and the Hispanic community, based on his record and his agenda for America. He believes that he will receive strong support from people from all walks of life.
Q Any idea what he is going to talk about in his speech tomorrow?
MR. McCLELLAN: Obviously, the President will talk about his record and his agenda going forward. I don't have any more to preview at this point, but he looks forward to going and speaking there tomorrow and taking some questions when he's there.
Q Scott, have you called previously for an end to these 527 ads?
MR. McCLELLAN: We're calling for an end to all these kind of activities today, and certainly we've spoken out against unregulated soft money.
Q Scott, going back to Kerry at the Unity Convention. Evidently, it seems to be the first time that he's actually criticized the President's handling on the morning of 9/11, when he was at that school in Florida and took those five to seven minutes to finish his reading to those children there. Kerry said how he would have handled it would have been to excuse himself, and said, I have matters to attend to. Is that a fair criticism of the President by Senator Kerry?
MR. McCLELLAN: Like I said, I haven't seen this conference. I would want to take a look at what he said, but it sounds just more like -- it sounds like more of the same kind of political attacks he's been engaging in, rather than trying to defend his record and discuss the issues, and the differences on those issues. But, again, I haven't seen those remarks. You might want to talk to the campaign about it. I'll be glad to take a look at them, as well.
All right, thanks.
* The Freedom Corps greeter in Columbus, Ohio is Jack Lehr * The Freedom Corps greeter in Saginaw, Michigan is Charlie Wargel
END 12:17 P.M. EDT