|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 27, 2004
Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
10:47 A.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: Good morning, gagglers. The President had his usual briefings this morning. He taped an interview for ESPN, some of the election coverage they're doing. And we've got the events in --
Q What did he do?
MR. McCLELLAN: An interview with ESPN, Jim Gray.
Then we've got events in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan today, before overnighting in Michigan. Senator Miller is traveling with us. I know he'll -- you can expect that he'll introduce the President, at least at a couple of the stops.
As part of the President's remarks today, in addition to focusing on the five clear choices when it comes to families, I expect he will continue to talk about his efforts to reach out to independents and Democrats. He's continued to reach out here at the end of the campaign to Democrats who feel abandoned by their ticket, and he'll talk about some of that in his remarks.
And that's really all I've got to begin with.
Q What's the meeting with African American leaders, who are they and --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we'll get you more information on the ground, or the campaign can. It's really to thank them for their support and for their continuing efforts to help the President with his outreach efforts to the African American community.
Q Can you repeat that again? What the meeting was?
MR. McCLELLAN: It's not "was," it's later today.
Q It's in the schedule.
MR. McCLELLAN: It's later today, when we get to Michigan. It will be a greeting with African American leaders, the first thing when we arrive at the Silverdome. And that's stills at the end.
Q Are they specifically working for the campaign? What are they, volunteers?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll get the campaign to get you more information on the ground.
Q Is that an official visit or a campaign event?
MR. McCLELLAN: This is part of the campaign.
Q Will the President mention missing weapons, missing explosives in Iraq in any of his speeches?
MR. McCLELLAN: I have found one aspect of this debate interesting. Senator Kerry's own advisors, Senator Kerry's own senior advisors have now been forced to admit that they don't know the facts. Richard Holbrooke said, I don't know the truth. And Jamie Rubin made similar comments to that effect. I think it is part of the pattern by Senator Kerry, even when he does not know the facts, to say anything that will give him a political advantage.
You know, the fact is there is an investigation that is ongoing to get to the bottom of this. Our military does not know what happened to those munitions, and neither does Senator Kerry. Yet, he is willing to -- well, Senator Kerry is someone who does not want to let the facts or the truth stand in the way of his campaign. He fails to talk about the fact that more than 400,000 tons of munitions have been seized or destroyed by coalition forces; more than 10,000 caches have been cleared. And let's remember the facts. This was a dangerous regime that had munitions literally spread throughout the country. Senator Kerry, with less than a week to go before the campaign, now suddenly believes that Iraq was a danger.
I expect the President may talk about what Senator Kerry is willing to do for his own political advantage, and that is ignore --
Q But he won't address the missing explosive issues, directly?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we talked about that. There's an investigation that's ongoing. No, that's why I'm saying is that I expect you will hear him talk some about what I just referred to.
Q The President will not specifically address the issue of these missing explosives?
MR. McCLELLAN: I expect -- this is the debate that -- or the discussion that has been going on. And I expect that the President will talk about the fact that Senator Kerry is willing to say anything for his own political advantage, even when he doesn't know the facts.
Q But will he actually address the 380 --
MR. McCLELLAN: I expect he will talk about the fact that more 400,000 munitions have been seized or otherwise destroyed. And I expect -- you heard what I just had to say, I expect he'll touch on some of that.
Q When you say that 400,000 musicians [sic] have been seized or destroyed, what, specifically, are you referring to?
MR. McCLELLAN: What I talked about the other day and what the military has talked about: more than 243,000 munitions have already been destroyed; 400,000 tons of munitions have already been destroyed; another nearly 163,000 tons of munitions have been secured and are ready to be destroyed, awaiting to be destroyed.
Q But, Scott, that's a meaningless number unless you know what percentage of the total that is, out of how much has that been destroyed?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's what I said, these munition caches were spread all throughout the country. Literally every day our coalition forces continue to work to seize and destroy munitions. This was a regime that operated in that fashion. They spread munitions throughout the country, and I think the military can give you what they know about those.
Q Right, but there's lots of different kinds of musicians [sic] and some are more lethal than others -- the 380 --
MR. McCLELLAN: The military can talk to you --
Q -- explosives are extremely lethal weapons. Are you denying --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let's put -- I think, Maura, I think you're trying to mischaracterize things a little bit here. Let's talk to the military and ask them where this falls, in terms of the rest of the munitions. It's a high priority, and it has been a high priority. And now we've learned that these munitions may well have been removed by the regime prior to the military forces coming into -- coming into or arriving at the site.
Q Scott, were you implying, then, that the military had this on a lower priority than other weapons caches?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, absolutely not. In fact, you were implying something that I don't think you can imply without talking to the military. And I think they will tell you -- I'd leave it to the military leaders to talk to you more about the prioritization.
Q Right, but you just said it's important to see where these munitions are on the list of priorities. Is that implying that they were not at the top?
MR. McCLELLAN: You might want to talk to the military about that. And the military can talk to you about that, and they can tell you -- obviously, remember, when we went into Iraq, one of the priorities was to look for the weapons of mass destruction. These -- as I pointed out the other day -- are not a proliferation risk. These are conventional weapons that we are talking about.
Q Is it your feeling that these weapons disappeared in the confusion of the start of the U.S. invasion, or -- it was the NBC report.
MR. McCLELLAN: We don't know the facts, but it may well be that they were removed by the regime prior to American forces -- prior to American forces arriving there. And you now have Senator Kerry's own advisors saying that they don't know the facts, they don't know the truth. Yet Senator Kerry is willing to use this to his own political advantage, when he doesn't even know the truth.
Q Scott, the inspectors are saying that the seals were intact five days before the invasion. Are you saying that they regime removed the weapons in those five days?
MR. McCLELLAN: That's another thing you might want to talk to the military about the specific time line, because my understanding is that the site was inspected in January, and they looked to see if the weapons were there. Then later, in March, they saw that the seals were still there, but that doesn't mean that they did a full inspection of the site. And then there was a period between March and April when the invasion was going on and troops were moving toward Baghdad to remove the regime. So there's a whole period in there when -- very real possibility that the regime could have removed those weapons. We don't know the facts -- the military does not know what happened to those weapons, neither does Senator Kerry. And it is Senator Kerry who, time and time again, has shown that he will say anything for political gain. And this is all part of a pattern by Senator Kerry.
Q Do you say that the regime, that the Saddam Hussein regime was still capable of moving tons of explosives around the country after the U.S. invaded?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not saying that. I'm saying -- military leaders have said that. Our military leaders have said that. I think that's a fact. This was a regime that operated in that fashion. They had munitions -- munition caches all across the country. They moved munitions around.
Q But isn't it more likely that they were looted? There were reports of looters on the scene after --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- based on what?
Q I believe the military said that they found looters at the scene, after the invasion.
MR. McCLELLAN: It's more likely, how can you make that statement?
Q Because the military said there were looters at the site.
MR. McCLELLAN: They didn't say it was more likely.
Q They said that looters were --
MR. McCLELLAN: The words you said were, "more likely." This just shows that -- Senator Kerry's own advisors says he doesn't -- that they don't know the truth, he doesn't know the truth, yet he's willing to say anything for his own political advantage. And you said, "very likely." You don't know that.
Q No, no, no. What you said was that it was likely that the regime moved this around at some point even after the U.S. invaded.
MR. McCLELLAN: That's a likely possibility, that the regime could have removed those explosives before that time period.
Q But what I'm saying is that there are military reports that looters receive at the site, after the invasion. So doesn't that make it more likely that there were looters?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, no, no, who said that?
Q The military reported looters at the --
MR. McCLELLAN: What's your source?
Q The U.S. military.
MR. McCLELLAN: Show me the source. I'll be glad to --
Q Scott, if you don't know, either, how can you say it's likely?
MR. McCLELLAN: That's what I said -- no, that it is a likely possibility.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, it is a likely possibility, because of the way the regime operated. And I think commanders have talked about that, as well.
Q Maybe it's a possibility, but I don't --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the military doesn't -- the material -- the military doesn't know -- well, because all during that time period there was the time -- that was the time period when they could have. And that's why I said, the military doesn't know what happened to those explosives, neither does Senator Kerry. Yet Senator -- the issue here, now, is that it just goes to show the pattern by Senator Kerry that he will say anything, even when he doesn't know the truth, for his own political advantage.
Q Another -- there are reports that another $70 billion is going to be asked of Congress, in an emergency supplemental. Why is he going to wait until January?
MR. McCLELLAN: One, we're still early in the process. As we made clear months ago, we said we would be coming back, asking for additional funding to make sure that our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have all the resources they need to complete their critical mission. And so that's still early in the process, an it's premature to try to speculate about what the precise number would be. We will be coming back early next year, as we have said before, requesting additional funding to support our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. And that's why we passed the $87 billion in the first place, to make sure our troops had all the resources they need to do their job in Iraq and Afghanistan.
END 11:05 A.M. EDT