|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 10, 2004
Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En route Huntington, West Virginia
National Guard Documents
9:59 A.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me start off with the President's day. The President spoke with President Mbeki this morning. The two leaders shared their views on the need to take strong action against proliferation. The President thanked President Mbeki for the recent steps South Africa has taken to pursue individuals and firms associated with the A.Q. Khan network. The two leaders also discussed Darfur and they discussed the African Union efforts in the Darfur region. They also discussed President Obasanjo's meeting with President Bashir and both leaders agreed on the need to move forward on completion of a free trade agreement between the United States and the Southern African Customs Union. And they also discussed the importance of addressing the situations in the Congo and Zimbabwe.
Then the President had his usual briefings this morning.
We will be going to Huntington, West Virginia, where he will make remarks at a Victory 2004 Rally. Following that, the President will participate in an "Ask President Bush" event in Portsmouth, Ohio. And on the bus trip from Portsmouth to Chillicothe, the President is going to meet with some union members and employees -- four, altogether -- Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant. They're expressing their support for them. I think the campaign can probably give you more information later about that -- Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant, and, like I said, the campaign can get you a little bit more information on the plant and the employees a little bit later.
Q Is there a dispute of some sort?
MR. McCLELLAN: What's that? No, no, no. He's visiting with them and they are going to be expressing their support for his re-election. Then he's got the remarks, and that's the President's schedule. We return to D.C. this evening. He's also got a photo opportunity with a Make-A-Wish Foundation child prior to departure from Ohio, back to D.C.
Q I saw Zell Miller getting on board this morning with Senator DeWine, will -- MR. McCLELLAN: Senator DeWine, Senator Miller, Congressman Portman are all on board.
Q Will Zell Miller be making remarks at the rallies, introducing or --
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me double-check that. Obviously, you'll be there to cover it. Let me double-check it with the campaign.
Q Is there sort of an energy theme today, at all?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think he'll continue to talk about his agenda for the future and talk about some of the priorities he mentioned in the convention speech.
Q Highlight energy --
MR. McCLELLAN: He may talk a little bit more about the differences on Iraq. So you might want to pay attention to those remarks.
Q On Iraq?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes.
Q On the National Guard documents --
Q Can you talk about tomorrow --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm going to get to the week ahead at the end, but what we've laid out for tomorrow is what he's doing tomorrow, and then he'll go to Camp David.
Q He is going to Camp David? Okay, thanks.
MR. McCLELLAN: Following the radio address.
Q Scott, on the National Guard documents, do you have any suspicions about their authenticity?
MR. McCLELLAN: We don't know whether the documents were fabricated or are authentic. You know, the media has talked to independent experts who have raised questions about the documents. CBS has not disclosed where the documents came from. But, regardless, it does not -- the documents do not change the facts. The President met his obligations and was honorably discharged. And the one thing that is clear is the timing and the coordination going on here. There is an orchestrated effort by Democrats and the Kerry campaign to tear down the President because of the direction the polls are moving. And it's not surprising that we're seeing the same old recycled attacks. The Democrats are determined to throw the kitchen sink at us, and I suspect this is just the beginning.
Q When you use the word "coordination," it seems to suggest in a legal sense that the Kerry campaign is illegally coordinating with the 527 --
MR. McCLELLAN: It's clear. I mean, look at the media reports, they've documented the coordinated efforts by Democrats to tear down the President here, because they're falling behind in the polls. You look at the -- The Washington Post had a story about it today, talking about the multi-front effort by the Democratic National Committee, other Democrats. You have outrageous comments being made by Senator Harkin. You have the Democratic National Committee using the term "Operation Fortunate Son." "Fortunate Son" was the name of a book by an ex-convict that was widely discredited in the 2000 campaign.
Q But what I'm saying is, you're essentially accusing Mr. Kerry of violating McCain-Feingold, it sounds like.
MR. McCLELLAN: What I'm saying is that the Democrats are seeing the direction the polls are moving and they are now -- and they are determined to tear down the President, they are determined to throw the kitchen sink at us.
We're focused -- the President is focused on his agenda for the future and where he wants to lead this country. The Democrats are focused on tearing down the President with the same old recycled attacks, because they're falling behind.
Q Are you guys doing a -- are you doing an analysis of your own about the documents, to see if they're fake or not?
MR. McCLELLAN: No. I don't know that we have any way to verify that. I mean, these are serious allegations and they are being looked into by others.
Q Two questions. Does the White House regret handing out those documents, taking CBS's word on their authenticity, without checking them, themselves?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, we -- you know, we released all the President's personnel -- or made available publicly all the President's personnel, medical and payroll files in their entirety. The Department of Defense has continued to go back and look for additional documents that weren't in those files.
It was an issue of openness. CBS provided us with those documents and --
Q Did you ask --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we did ask, and CBS did not disclose to us, either, where they obtained those documents from. We wanted to be open about it, so we provided that information, as we have other documents to the media.
Q Were you duped, do you think?
MR. McCLELLAN: Bill, that's assuming a lot of things. Like I said, we don't know whether the documents were fabricated or authentic.
Q Have you been in contact with CBS since this question about their authenticity has arisen, in terms of their internal investigation, et cetera?
MR. McCLELLAN: In terms of their internal investigation?
Q Have they notified you --
MR. McCLELLAN: CBS put out a statement yesterday, I noticed. So you all are very aware of the --
Q But have they contacted you directly and said, we may have given you bogus documents?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, not that I'm aware of. You all were very well aware of what their position is. They put a statement out.
Q Scott, is the President at all troubled by the distinctly negative tone the campaign seems to have taken since the convention and going forward in these last few --
MR. McCLELLAN: That's why -- I mean, you're seeing a real contrast here. The President went to New York and outlined a positive and hopeful vision for the country. He talked about where he wants to lead this country in the war on terrorism, and our efforts here at home to provide more opportunity for all Americans. And the Democrats are resorting to recycling old attacks from the past to tear down the President. I think we have great confidence in the American people to see through these kind of attacks.
Q How did the Vice President's comment fit into that description you just gave?
MR. McCLELLAN: What do you mean?
Q His comment, when he basically said that voters have a choice in the election, and if they make the wrong choice, that we could get hit by a terrorist attack.
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the Vice President actually -- I think you all have something on the wire now, talking about his interview with -- I believe it was a Cincinnati paper.
And he --
Q The President has not --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- I think he made it very clear in his remarks the other day, and he also made it clear today. He said that he wanted to make it clear that he was talking about the different strategies for fighting the war on terrorism. Having an effective strategy to win the war on terrorism is a critical issue in this race, and there are some clear differences on how you fight and win the war on terrorism. And those issues should be discussed. I think our opponent has shown a fundamental misunderstanding of how you wage the war on terrorism. And the President has a very clear strategy for waging and winning the war on terrorism. It's fought on many fronts, and it's also fought by spreading freedom, to defeat the ideologies of hatred. And that's the strategy this President is pursuing. Senator Kerry has a different strategy, and we should discuss and debate those issues and differences.
Q Are you glad that the Vice President walked that back a little bit?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the Vice President said what he said -- said what he was talking about the other day; he was talking about the different approaches to the war on terrorism in this race. That's a very important issue before the American people, and it's a choice that should be discussed and debated, so that the American people will know exactly where everybody stands on that highest of priorities.
Q Scott, Senator McCain the other week made clear that he thought that it was appropriate to examine Senator Kerry's behavior in the anti-war movement, not questioning his service, but what he did when he came home. There are now Republican-funded groups are starting to air advertisements looking at some of those issues. Does the President think that that's appropriate for --
MR. McCLELLAN: The American people will make decisions about the public comments that he made after the war. We recognize there are a lot of strong feelings among veterans about some of the comments he made after the war. But this race is about the future and about our different agendas for the future. The President has outlined a clear agenda, a clear and positive agenda for the country. Senator Kerry does not want to discuss his out-of-the-mainstream record in the Senate, and he does not want to discuss his out-of-the-mainstream views, and he has done nothing to offer the American people an agenda for where he wants to lead the country.
Q But does the President think that that -- what Senator Kerry's anti-war action is, is an important part of his record for the American people to know --
MR. McCLELLAN: He made public comments. You cited what Senator McCain said. Those were public comments made by the senator. There are, obviously, very strong feelings within the veteran community about some of those comments. The American people will make those decisions. The President is going to continue to focus on his agenda for the future. That's what the President believes the focus -- where the focus should be, and what this should be.
All right, I'll do the week ahead real quick. On Monday, September 13th, it's a bus tour. He'll participate in a "Focus on Health with President Bush" event in Michigan -- we already announced that one, actually -- remarks at a Holland, Michigan, Victory 2004 rally, remarks at a Battle Creek, Michigan Victory 2004 rally, overnight in Aurora, Colorado on Monday.
Tuesday, the 14th, the President will make remarks at Arapahoe County, Colorado, Victory 2004 Rally. Then he'll make remarks at the General Conference of the National Guard Association of the United States in Las Vegas, and return to the White House. On Wednesday, September 15th, he makes remarks at the Hispanic Heritage Month Concert and Reception at the White House. And on Thursday, the 16th, he'll make remarks at a St. Cloud, Minnesota Victory 2004 Rally. He'll participate in a "Focus on Health with President Bush" event in Blaine, Minnesota, then he'll make remarks at a Rochester, Minnesota, Victory 2004 rally.
Then on Friday, September 17th, he'll make remarks at a Victory 2004 reception in Washington, D.C. And then he'll make remarks at a Victory 2004 and Burr for Senate Reception in Charlotte, North Carolina. We overnight in Kennebunkport. And then Saturday there are no public events scheduled. He'll be in -- we overnight in Kennebunkport. And on Sunday, the 19th, he'll participate in the opening of the Sylvania 300 NASCAR race in Loudon, New Hampshire, and then he'll participate in an "Ask President Bush" event in Derry, New Hampshire. We overnight in Kennebunkport. And then on Monday, the 20th, we travel to New York City, where the President will remain until the 22nd. Also on Monday, the 20th, the President will participate in a Victory 2004 dinner. He will remain in New York City until the 22nd, for the United Nations General Assembly. And we will announce for the United Nations when we get closer to the event.
END 10:14 A.M. EDT