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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 9, 2004

Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Colmar, Pennsylvania

President’s Schedule
National Guard Service
Swift Boats
Costa Rica
Campaign 2004

11:53 A.M. EDT

MR. McCLELLAN: The President had his usual briefings this morning. He also participated in an NSC meeting --

Q Subject?

MR. McCLELLAN: Iraq -- with General Abizaid and General Casey, and Ambassador Negroponte were all -- via satellite. Then he had some photo opportunities with the School Principals of the Year.

When we arrive in Pennsylvania the Freedom Corps greeter is Eunice Sanchez, who has been a volunteer with the Amachi Mentoring program in Philadelphia for the last three years. And then the President will go to Byers' Choice, which is a small business manufacturer, and make remarks there, where he will talk about his vision for the economy and the clear choices facing our nation as we continue to move forward on the economy. He'll talk about his pro-growth economic agenda and the steps that we're taking to continue on a path toward growth and opportunity.

I think you're all familiar with some of the things he'll touch on today. This will be kind of a more lengthy speech on the economy.

Then, following that --

Q It's a campaign event?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. He'll talk about some of the choices and the contrast, when it comes to the philosophy of the candidates and their records and views.

And then he will make remarks at a Johnstown, Pennsylvania Victory 2004 Rally this evening, before we get back to the White House.

A couple of updates on the schedule. On Saturday, the 11th, you already have that he will attend a service of prayer and remembrance and then participate in a moment of silence on the South Lawn. Following that, at 10:06 a.m., the President will participate in a live radio address, in observance of the September the 11th terrorist attacks. And joining him will be some families of the victims, as well as first responders. And this is his second live weekly radio address that he will tape -- or live weekly radio address that he will do as President.

Q When was the other one?

MR. McCLELLAN: It was the March 9, 2002, Rose Garden signing of the Job Creation and Worker's Assistance Act of 2002.

And on Monday, the President will do another bus tour. He will participate in a "Focus on Health Care with President Bush" event in Muskegon, Michigan. Then he will make remarks at a Holland, Michigan -- not Steve Holland, but at a Holland, Michigan, Victory 2004 Rally. Then he'll make remarks at a Battle Creek, Michigan Victory 2004 Rally. We will overnight in Aurora, Colorado.

And on Tuesday, the 14th, he'll make remarks at a Jefferson County, Colorado Victory 2004 Rally. Then he'll make remarks to the General Conference of the National Guard Association of the United States in Las Vegas.

Q Remaining overnight?

MR. McCLELLAN: Tuesday? No, we return back. I think that's all I've got.

Q Before we get to the Vietnam War, what did Abizaid and Negroponte and company tell the President about Iraq right now?

MR. McCLELLAN: As you are aware, I let you know that he participates in NSC meetings on -- when he participates in these NSC meetings, but there is not going to be a readout of that meeting.

Q Why did the President defy a direct order to get a physical in 1972?

MR. McCLELLAN: Scott, these are the same old recycled attacks that we see every time the President is up for election. It's not surprising that you see a coordinated effort by Democrats to attack the President when Senator Kerry is falling behind in the polls. And we had a very successful convention, and that's what this is about. It was well known that the President was going to work in Alabama and seeking a transfer to perform equivalent duty in a non-flying status. And that's what he was doing.

Q Did he decline to take it because he was moving to Alabama?

MR. McCLELLAN: He was transferring to a unit in Alabama to perform equivalent duty in a non-flying status. That is nothing new.

Q This was a direct order he defied, right? I mean, he did have a direct order that he defied?*

MR. McCLELLAN: John, these issues have come up every year. This was all part of the records -- that he was seeking to transfer to a unit in Alabama because he was going there to work in a civilian capacity. And he was granted permission to do so. And he was proud of his service and he was honorably discharged in October '73, after meeting his obligations.

*The memos that were released, in fact, show the President was working with his commanders to comply with the order.

Q Do you think that the Kerry campaign was behind these allegations surfacing again now?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think you absolutely are seeing a coordinated attack by John Kerry and his surrogates on the President. The polls show Senator Kerry falling behind, and it's the same old recycled attacks that we've seen every time the President has been up for election.

Q Do you think it's retaliation for the Swift Boats attacks on Kerry?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think it's -- I think it's in response to Senator Kerry falling behind in the polls and a successful convention that we had last week in New York.

Q Scott, even if these are old and recycled, and he was --

MR. McCLELLAN: This -- there --

Q I'd like to ask --

MR. MCCLELLAN: I would like to finish my answer.

Q But I didn't ask my question yet.

MR. McCLELLAN: But I haven't finished my answer to Steve. This race is about the future and the choices that the American people face. And there are clear differences on the issues. And I don't -- Senator Kerry will do anything he can to avoid defending his record and talking about the clear choices that the American people face. And this President -- the President will continue to focus on his agenda for the future. And that's what the American people want this election to be focused on. And that's where our focus has been and where it -- well, where it will continue to be.

Q Scott, I'm just wondering, even if these were old charges, and even if the President was honorably discharged, did he or did he not defy an order to get that physical?

MR. McCLELLAN: Holly, again, these are the same kind of recycled attacks that the Democrats are trying to engage in. The President fulfilled all his obligations, and that is why he was honorably discharged from the National Guard in October, 1973. He was given permission to perform equivalent duty in Alabama, and he met his obligations, and he met his obligations when he returned to Texas. And he met his obligations when he was in Texas, prior to going to Alabama.

Q Costa Rica has demanded to be taken off a list of the coalition. Do you have anything to say about that? Have you heard from them directly?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, every country, obviously, has to make their own decision. We're pleased by the strong international support for the ongoing efforts to help the Iraqi people build a free and peaceful future. The United Nations passed a strong resolution supporting the efforts there. Every country has to make their own decision about how they want to participate, and in what ways. And if that's what they want, then I'm sure we will do that.

Q Are you going to take them off the White House list on the website?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sure if that's what -- I'm not aware of any official communication with the United States on this matter. But, like I said, every country can make their own decision and has to make their own decision. If they want to be removed, then I'm sure we would.

Q What did you think about this new Kerry TV ad pointing out the $200 billion cost of Iraq?

MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't seen the ad, but it -- first of all, this is coming from the same person who, a year ago, said he wanted to increase costs for Iraq. I would point out that -- my understanding is that we have spent about $119 billion related to Iraq. And, certainly, when we send our troops into combat, we're going to make sure they have all of the resources and equipment that they need. And Senator Kerry is the one who voted for the authorization to go to war, and then he voted against the support for our troops when he voted against the $87 billion. And I think it's another example of him coming up with yet another position on Iraq when he brings this issue up. But that -- but that is a false number, too. It's his latest new position on Iraq.

Q The overall situation in Iraq, there's more and more references in the newspapers to a quagmire. We have Fallujah is a terrorist haven, rebellions in various cities against the U.S. troops. Is Iraq becoming a quagmire?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, we've -- I don't think such analogies have -- they're false analogies, first of all. We continue to make progress as we help the Iraqi people move forward to a brighter future. We've always said that there are going to be difficulties and dangers along the way, particularly as we move closer to holding elections. The terrorists and the enemies of freedom in Iraq are seeking to derail the transition to a free, peaceful, and democratic -- self-governing Iraq.

And the Iraqi people are determined not to let that happen and -- not to let that happen, and we are there to support the interim government and Iraqi forces as they work to address these ongoing security threats. There are ongoing security threats that Iraqi forces are taking the lead to address, and we're there to support them along with the other coalition forces.

Q And just one more point on this, Prime Minister Allawi said that it was possible elections would have to be delayed because of the violence. Is that your understanding, as well?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we are continuing to move -- help the Iraqi people move forward on the timetable that has been previously set out. And, like I said, that there are those who are seeking to derail that transition to democracy and free elections. And they will be defeated. They will not prevail.

Q Al Gore is saying today that Cheney's comments on the election are sleazy and despicable and an effort to blackmail voters with fear. That's from Al Gore today -- Al Gore in response to Cheney's comments about another terrorist attack coming. If Kerry is elected -- Al Gore is calling Cheney's comments --

MR. MCCLELLAN: Consider the source.

Q He was Vice President, last I looked.

MR. McCLELLAN: He's made all sorts of attacks against the President.

Q Jakarta bombing. Got anything on it?

MR. McCLELLAN: What about it, just looking for a comment?

Q Any details we might not have heard, or a reaction?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we condemn these kind of attacks in the strongest possible terms. It is -- it shows the true nature of the terrorists, and it is a grim reminder that we remain engaged in a global war on terrorism. The terrorists will be defeated. This is a tactic that is -- that's similar to tactics that have been used by Jemaat-e-Islam. And our thoughts and prayers are with the victims.


Q Thanks, Scott.

END 12:06 P.M. EDT