For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 28, 2004
Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Dayton, Ohio
11:14 A.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me begin with the President's day. He had his usual briefings this morning. He also placed some congratulatory calls to some of the Red Sox folks. He spoke with the owner, John Henry. He spoke with Larry Lucchino, the president. And we have reached out to Terry Francona, the manager. And the President also spoke with Curt Schilling this morning. The President called to congratulate them on their World Series victory. And the President called Curt Schilling to also thank him for his kind words of support that he made earlier today.
Q What does "reached out" to Francona mean?
MR. McCLELLAN: Trying to get in contact with him, to arrange the call so he can offer his congratulations to the manager and the team, as well.
Q Did the President watch the whole game?
MR. McCLELLAN: He watched some of it last night.
Q Did he get to the end, do you know?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, he watched some of it last night, so he saw who won this morning. The President is happy for the Red Sox and all their fans, this is a long time coming and he shares in their excitement about winning the World Series, for the first time since 1918.
Q Is he suspicious at all that John Kerry's favorite team won?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry? (Laughter.)
Let's see, then we've got -- he just did an interview with USA Today, with Judy Keen. And then we've got the rest of the events today. I think you all have everything else.
A couple of quick updates on other topics. On the flu vaccine, as we continue to work to make sure that those who are most in need get the shots, we've also worked to get additional doses of the vaccine from manufacturers. The good news is we have identified 5 million additional vaccines from some foreign manufacturers in Canada and Switzerland that we are working to acquire, if they meet our standards. We've got inspection teams that are headed to those plants to look at this vaccines.
Q Government inspection teams?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. And we've already expanded the supply by 6 million vaccines since Chiron made their announcement, from 55 million to 61 million. And we continue to appreciate those who don't need it, who are foregoing flu shots so that those who are most in need can get those shots.
Q Scott, can I ask you about The Washington Times story about Bill
Gertz reporting that Russian special forces moved these weapons at al Qaqaa before the war began? Has Condi Rice spoken with her Russian counterpart? Is it true?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not aware of any contact Condi has had as of today. No, I don't know anything about that story, other than what you saw in the papers. I know that there is some new information that has come to light in the last couple of days. ABC News last night reported on some of that information about the actual amount of RDX that may have been present at the al Qaqaa site. And also the fact that they reported that the seals -- that the ventilation flaps could have allowed the seals to continue to remain on there, even if the weapons had been removed prior to that time.
I think what --
Q Did the White House have any knowledge -- or has confirmed that, in fact, Russian special forces moved the stuff --
MR. McCLELLAN: No. No, we don't. I just don't -- I have no information that points in that direction. But I would point out that this new information that has come to light demonstrates how irresponsible it is for Senator Kerry to jump to conclusions based on unsubstantiated information. It shows a reckless disregard for the facts. And the President must make conclusions based on the facts.
The commander of the 2nd Brigade --
Q -- reckless disregard for the --
MR. McCLELLAN: That's what -- he's making unsubstantiated accusations without knowing the facts.
Q -- is different than saying a reckless disregard for the facts.
MR. McCLELLAN: You got your question, let me finish my response. The commander of the 2nd Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division said how it was very highly improbable that they could remove such a volume of explosives after the forces had gone in there. We don't know -- we don't know the facts, yet Senator Kerry went and jumped to conclusions. It just shows that he will say anything for political gain.
Now I saw that Mike McCurry made some comments earlier today, where now they're trying to change their story away from the wild accusations that Senator Kerry made earlier in the week -- that even Mike McCurry said that they well could have been removed prior to the forces arriving there. And that is a likely possibility and this new information just demonstrates how irresponsible it was for Senator Kerry to make such a wild accusation.
Q There's a likely possibility, you said? I mean --
MR. McCLELLAN: It is a likely possibility. It's a possibility -- we don't know, we don't know, as I said yesterday.
Q David Kay said --
MR. McCLELLAN: But when you look at what the commander said and you see some of this additional information that is coming to light --
Q David Kay said yesterday that it was their belief that the stuff had been looted, based on their inspections, you know, after they got back in there.
MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, as the commander on the -- I'd look to the commander on the ground, who arrived there and said how very highly improbable it could have been that they'd been removed. But the issue here goes to the wild accusations that Senator Kerry launched earlier this week, without knowing the facts. I mean, his own advisors came out and said, we don't know the truth, we don't know the facts. And, yet, Senator Kerry jumped to a conclusion and made these wild accusations without knowing the facts or knowing the truth. I think he has shown that he's not going to let the facts or the truth stand in the way of his campaign.
Q Do you hope to get this cleared up by election day? Powell said, in an interview today, that he hoped that this could be -- that the truth could be figured out in the very near future.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, it's being looked into. The Pentagon directed the multinational forces and the Iraq Survey Group to look into the matter, and it's being looked into -- that's an ongoing matter, so that we can learn the facts. Yet, Senator Kerry is the one who went and jumped to conclusions without knowing the facts, just because he saw it as a way for him to gain political advantage.
Q Do you know anything about this group that claims it obtained a large amount of these missing explosives?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm not aware of anyone who views that as credible. I think terrorists, obviously, like to try to manipulate the news.
Q Can I ask you about Rudy Giuliani, as you know, was on the "Today Show" this morning, and he said, no matter how you try to blame it on the President, the actual responsibility for it, meaning the weapons that went missing, really would be for the troops that were there -- did they search carefully enough -- did they search carefully enough? Does the President support Rudy Giuliani placing this blame on the troops?
MR. McCLELLAN: He's talking about how we don't know the facts, we don't know what happened to these explosives. We know that we have seized and destroyed more than 400,000 munitions from some 10,000 caches spread all throughout Iraq. But when you look at the regime and you look at the way they operate, it is a likely possibility that they were removed prior to our forces arriving there. We don't know -- Senator Kerry shows that he will say anything for his own political advantage. And I think this goes to an issue that the American people will be looking at very closely. And that's, who can you trust to lead this nation forward on the big priorities? A President can't jump to conclusions without knowing the facts.
Q I noticed he lost the Democratic appeal today. Was that a one-day thing, the overture to Democrats yesterday?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, it's part of his continuing efforts to reach out to independents and Democrats. He's been doing that for quite some time. But today really he focused -- today was really focused more on leadership, and contrasting the leadership of the two candidates. And he talked about the importance of consistency versus Senator Kerry's inconsistent positions. He talked about his compassionate conservative agenda, versus Senator Kerry's out-of-the-mainstream views. And he talked about how Senator Kerry -- it's a real weakness of his candidacy -- will say anything for a political advantage. He wants to obscure his out-of-the-mainstream record. And the President talked about that in his remarks today.
And the President also talked about his record of results and contrasted that with Senator Kerry's record of no real significant achievement. The American people want a leader who will get things done, and the President has shown that he can get things done. And that stands in stark contrast to Senator Kerry.
Q He didn't mention the explosives again, either. Are you hoping to move beyond that subject?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think he talked about Senator Kerry -- well, actually I think what you're seeing is it demonstrates once again the real weakness of Senator Kerry's candidacy. This is someone who will say anything for his own political advantage without knowing the facts.
Q But the President didn't mention it in his speech. Is he dropping that, or --
MR. McCLELLAN: The President has continued to talk about how Senator Kerry is someone who will say anything for his own political advantage.
Q Do you know if Arnold will be on Air Force One at all, or will you just meet him in Columbus?
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me check, but I don't know. Check with the campaign. I think we will meet him on the ground
END 11:25 A.M. EDT