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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 there?

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 now?

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 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 not serving?

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 this activity.

Q What about Senator Harkin, who called the Vice President a coward?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's just more negative political attacks by the Kerry campaign and the supporters of the Kerry campaign.

Q But, Scott, the 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 Boats ad.

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 does.

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 recommendations?

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 1st.

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 years

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