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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 24, 2006
Q In Congress, there are Democrats who want to use this confirmation hearing for Dr. Rice to go over her role in the prewar intelligence controversy in Iraq, in particular her repeated claim that the aluminum tubes that had been shipped to Iraq were for the purpose of enriching uranium for a nuclear weapons program, when it came out later there was information available to her that that was not true. What should the American people make as they watch what's going to be, at times, a contentious confirmation?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, let's -- we'll let the confirmation process take place. But the American people, over the last four years, have come to know Dr. Rice very well and they have great respect for her. She is someone who has a 25-year career in foreign policy and she has distinguished herself during that time period, whether it was inside government or outside government. And she has served in, I believe, three administrations, so she is someone who has developed working relationships with world leaders, foreign ministers, and national security advisors in other governments over that period of time. So she has strong working relationships with these other governments.
In terms -- I'm sure there are going to be a lot of questions raised during the confirmation process. She looks forward to that process. That's part of the process that is set up for the Cabinet members. And she has talked at length about some of these issues already. But certainly we hope that people will move forward in a spirit of working together so that we can move forward on the priorities that we share. And there are a number of priorities that she looks forward to building upon at the Department of State that Secretary Powell has worked on over the last four years.
Q And then to go from the specific to the general: one of the general concerns or criticisms that's out there -- not only in this country, but around the world -- about the replacement of Colin Powell with Condoleezza Rice, is the concern that perhaps Dr. Rice as National Security Advisor didn't allow enough fermenting opinions to get to the President, that she did not channel enough different ideas about how to go about affecting American policy, and that with the departure of Colin Powell, who at times was a different voice in the administration, this administration will sing the same tune from the same page and not have that kind of deductive discussion?
MR. McCLELLAN: Terry, I think that's a very uninformed view of how this White House operates and how this President makes decisions. This President looks to a diverse viewpoint from members of his Cabinet when he is working on policy. Once the decision is made, the President expects the administration to work together to implement that decision and to work together to implement his agenda. But he's always someone who has welcomed a wide diversity of views from members of his team, and that is what he will continue to receive, I am sure, from his Cabinet in a second term.
And Dr. Rice -- you mentioned Dr. Rice. She is someone who has worked to coordinate the policy-making process on the foreign policy front. And she has worked to make sure that the President receives a diversity of views. So I think any suggestion to the contrary is just a very uninformed position of how this White House operates and how this President makes decisions.
Q You know, Scott, the President seemed to acknowledge the fact that there were -- there was discord on his foreign policy team, even at the most recent press conference, when he said, there's a lot of different opinions, a lot of strong personalities.
I wonder, in his selections now, does he believe that it would behoove him to have less discord, less disagreement about the approach to foreign policy?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think he looks at it that way. I think that you mentioned strong personalities. That shows the kind of team that the President put together. The President has always been someone -- I've worked for him for now some six years, going back to his days as governor of Texas -- he has always been someone who has worked to surround himself with a very strong team of people who will offer him a wide range of views on various policy matters. That's the way this President has always operated. He believes that that's a healthy part of the decision-making process.
Q What evidence is there to suggest that there's going to be that wide array of views when the one who represented most of the dissent is now gone?
MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, I think that -- one, I think that that's somewhat misguided, to say that, "the one who represented different views." There are many members of the President's Cabinet --
Q Should we go through the list of who thought what, and who agreed --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- and there are many members of the national security team and they all have viewpoints. Sometimes they share views on certain issues, sometimes they disagree on certain issues. And --
Q Scott, you're expecting the American people to shut their eyes and forget the past four years, where Colin Powell was at odds with Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney? This is part of history now.
MR. McCLELLAN: They each have unique roles, and you're going to have people in these positions, some of which you mentioned, who bring their own, unique style to the position and their own unique views and perspectives and experiences to that position. The President will continue to receive a wide range of views with his new Cabinet in place.
Q Do you believe that Dr. Rice will be able to work more seamlessly with the Vice President and the Secretary of Defense than Colin Powell did?
MR. McCLELLAN: I know you want to try to make comparisons. I think Dr. Rice will build upon the strong record of accomplishment that Secretary Powell has had at the Department of State. We have all -- and that's assuming certain things, John, that I don't think you can assume. But Dr. Rice has worked on a number of important policy initiatives with Secretary Powell, with Secretary Rumsfeld, with the rest of the national security team. And she has worked to make sure that the President receives a diversity of views on all those points. Each position has its own unique responsibilities, I might point out, as well. So I think it's somewhat -- just a misinformed view to suggest otherwise.
Q Well, let's change subjects for a second. Has the President had any conversations in the last few days with his CIA Director about the ongoing dust-up there over changing of personnel?
MR. McCLELLAN: He meets with his CIA Director on a daily basis, as you are aware, and receives his briefings from him.
Q But has he had any conversations about --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not going to get into conversations that they have, but certainly we stay in close contact with the CIA on any number of matters.
Q Can you say that the President is unhappy with the bad publicity that's been coming out of the CIA in the last few days?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think you can say the President has great confidence in Director Goss and his leadership. He has great confidence in his ability to address some of the issues that you're pointing to. We also have great confidence in the men and women who work at the CIA and the job that they do every day, 24 hours a day, to protect the American people. And, you know, I think anytime you have a new Director, there will be change.
And I might point out, too, that we are also in a period where we are moving forward -- continuing to move forward on a number of reforms. The President, as you are aware, has taken a number of steps since September 11th to make sure that we're doing everything we can to protect the American people. Part of that has been intelligence reform. The President appointed an independent executive branch commission to look at our intelligence capabilities relating to weapons of mass destruction. He also is working very closely with Congress to pass intelligence reforms that builds upon our efforts. And Director Goss is someone who is committed to reform. With reform comes change, and I think that should be expected.
Q So the description that the President "scolded" his CIA Director for the bad publicity coming out of the CIA in the last few days, would that be an accurate representation?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know who is making that suggestion, but I don't think that they have an idea of what's going on.
Q So you're saying, no, he didn't scold him, Scott?
MR. McCLELLAN: No. Go ahead.
Q Wait, do you want to finish that? Do you want to finish with John?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know where that's coming from. I certainly have not heard anything of that nature.
Q Then are you saying, no, he didn't scold him?
MR. McCLELLAN: That's what I just said, John. I have no idea where that's coming from.
Q Okay. I just wanted to hear the answer.
Assuming Tommy Thompson and Tom Ridge resign in the next day or so, that means that more than half -- (laughter) -- I'm not asking you to address that, I'm not asking you --
MR. McCLELLAN: You're just asking me to assume that. (Laughter.)
Q That means more than half of the Cabinet will have resigned. And how is this -- can you tell me how this reflects a stability or continuing, you know, government in this administration, when half of the Cabinet has left in the last week or two?
MR. McCLELLAN: Sure, Elisabeth. It's worked in previous administrations. I think that part of the transition process to a second term -- as part of that process, we have looked to previous administrations and how they have gone about it as part of a guide for how we are going about it. But the President, as I mentioned yesterday, has the right to make decisions about who is part of his second term team. And certainly members of the Cabinet are also looking at whether they want to continue as part of that second term team. So those discussions are ongoing. But in all these cases, everybody is committed to working together to make sure that that transition process is smooth.
As I mentioned yesterday, the four that submitted their resignations intend to serve in their positions until their replacement is confirmed. And, certainly, it's, I think, a lot smoother transition when you're moving into a second term from a first term than when you're just coming into office. So we already have a transition that we had back in 2000, which was when the President was just coming into office.
Q One more question about Condi. You talked about how she's going to be -- how she's going to be like Colin Powell. Can you give me -- where is their biggest difference going to be?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not going to try to make comparisons. They're both people who bring great experience to the administration and both have done a great job in their own ways.
Q So there will be no change, at all?
MR. McCLELLAN: But I think Dr. Rice talked about in her remarks how she looked forward to building upon what Secretary Powell has done, and she's looked to him as someone who has been a mentor. But as I said, each person has their own unique personality, their own unique experiences that they bring to the table. And they both have been outstanding members of this team, people that the President has great trust in.
Certainly, Secretary Powell, I think, has been one of our greatest Secretaries of State ever in some of what he's accomplished there at the Department of State. And Dr. Rice is one of the President's closest, most trusted advisors, and she is someone who is committed to helping the President implement the agenda he outlined, just like Secretary Powell was.
Go ahead, Connie.
Q Thank you, Scott. On the incident yesterday in front of the White House, first of all, I want to commend the police officers. I mean, they literally risked their lives to save that man. They were very brave --
MR. McCLELLAN: And both the Park Police, as well as the Uniformed Division of the Secret Service should be commended, as well as the President's protective detail. There were two incidents yesterday.
Q Yes. Is there any procedure that can be put in place in the future? Because if that man had been booby-trapped, they would have been killed.
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't get into talking about all the different security measures that we take, but we have great trust in our Secret Service detail, and that includes both the protective detail, as well as the Uniformed Division and the others who are here. We have great trust in the Park Police, too. The Park Police obviously was involved in that incident, the first incident, yesterday. And they are always -- that's their entire focus, is to -- the safety and security of the people here in this complex --
Q Well, they saved his life --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- and they did a great job.
Q Did they know it was going to happen? I mean, reading The Washington Post article, did they expect something?
MR. McCLELLAN: You might want to talk to the police and the Secret Service about what they learned and when they learned it.
Q Scott, let me ask you a couple questions, more about the philosophy of the transition, if you will. There are some people who look at the White House and see the relative stability in the senior staff here in this building -- Dr. Rice leaving today, obviously, is one change -- but they take it as the view that the President -- some people use transitions to make mid-course corrections, if you will, adjust this, adjust that -- but the President thinks there's nothing to adjust, that things are working just fine?
MR. McCLELLAN: He wants to build upon what we've done. And I think that there -- it's a second term, it is an opportunity to look at how things are working and keep in mind what your agenda is for the second term and the type of team that you want in place to help move forward on that agenda.
Q And then they --
MR. McCLELLAN: But, yes, no -- he thinks that his Cabinet has done an outstanding job in helping him implement his agenda that he outlined for the American people.
Q They've also seen the two major changes we have had here at the White House, Judge Gonzales --
MR. McCLELLAN: But I would point out, too, and I talked a little bit about this yesterday, that if you look at the President's Cabinet, some of these people have served for a very long period of time, based on historical standards. Many of these people have been in place for four years now. That's a long time to serve in any position in Washington, much less a high-profile position like a Cabinet position.
Q But if you look at the two major changes at the White House, Judge Gonzales, and now Dr. Rice, they are going to departments that, perhaps no surprise, because they are big bureaucracies, Justice and State, with a lot of career people who don't always necessarily agree with whoever runs the White House, but two departments where perhaps you've had more tug-of-wars than with other departments in the past four years. And they say, here's the President putting loyalists in the two places where there have been at least small fires, if you will, in the past four years, with the message, put them out.
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the President appoints the people who he believes are the best people for the various positions in government, and people that are committed to helping him implement his agenda. He wants to get people in there that bring experience and wise counsel to the various positions. And that's what he will continue to do as we move forward on this process.
Q Scott, I don't want to drag this issue any more after today, but I just want to bring -- it was important to bring --
MR. McCLELLAN: The Cabinet issue?
Q No, no, no. (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: Can we all agree?
Q -- to the attention of the President --
MR. McCLELLAN: We all have fun during this time period.
Q -- Diwali celebration at the White House. But, really, I'm getting all the emails and letters all the --
MR. McCLELLAN: Goyal, I --
Q -- Scott, I'm' sorry to interrupt you -- that there is plenty of bad publicity against the White House in India and in the -- among Indian Americans, at least those in the U.S. But I am still thanking the White House and the President for giving a (inaudible) to these people, to come into the White House, and even if it were not a Diwali celebration, but it was just a briefing --
MR. McCLELLAN: And this may be the first administration, or one of the first administrations to really do that, too.
Q But what I'm saying really here, contradicting, did somebody goof at the Asian Pacific Department at the White House, public liaisons office that (inaudible) message -- it said from the President, dated July 19, 2004, Diwali was on November 10th.
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll be glad to take a look at it. I haven't seen that letter, but bring it to me, and we'll look into it.
Q We like to give some positive, really not negative --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the President has a very positive record of outreach to the African -- I mean, to the Indian American community here in America, and certainly he has a great working relationship that he's built over the last four years with India.
Q My question is on Iran. In the last few days, Canadian government -- Canadian Ambassador to the U.N., had some kind of resolution on Iran that there is a concern about human rights situation in Iran. And now we are dealing about these nuclear weapons, or Iran can make a nuclear bomb in a year and all that. Where do we stand on this resolution and all the --
MR. McCLELLAN: On the nuclear issue?
Q Nuclear and human rights issue.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we have a number of concerns that we've expressed over time regarding Iran. You mentioned two of them. And certainly their support for terrorism has been a concern, as well.
And in terms of the nuclear issue, we have supported and continue to support the efforts of our European friends. There has been a positive step, but it is only a first step. There are other steps that need to be taken to reach our shared objective when it comes to Iran. And it is important that Iran now move forward on implementation of the agreement. We will have to see what they do in regards to moving forward on that agreement. The proof of the agreement will be in the implementation.
We will continue to be in close contact with our European allies on their efforts to advance the common objective we have, which is to make sure that Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon. It's very clear what they need to do. Iran needs to fully comply with the IAEA. They need to adhere -- ratify and adhere to the additional protocol. And they need to suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities. We've been very clear in that regard.
The way to move forward on this was laid out by the IAEA board of governors. They laid out a framework for moving forward. And now it's important that the IAEA be able to verify Iran's implementation of the agreement by the next board meeting, which is scheduled for November 25th and 26th. So that's where we are.
Q Just quick on Dr. Rice, there is a (inaudible) in the news in India and also here among the community, I just wanted to say that President has done a good job by appointing her because of her experience and her knowledge and the (inaudible) of issues.
MR. McCLELLAN: Thank you. Go ahead, Jacobo.
Q Yes, two questions, Scott. The first one, the President is traveling this weekend to Chile to APEC meeting, then a statement, then a stopover in Colombia. Will both Secretary of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice be on this trip with the President?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think Secretary Powell is headed there ahead of us. And I think we'll probably have more, in terms of the briefing, on this tomorrow. I'll try to give you a little bit more information. Obviously, we'll be working on two important areas: the security and economic front will be the priorities on this agenda. But the President looks forward to attending --
Q But, I mean, will both of them go on --
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me double-check. I'm not sure that Dr. Rice is going to be on this trip.
Q Next question. A lot of people are waiting to see what will be the final outcome of the negotiations between the Senate and the House on the creation of a National Director of Intelligence. And some people have said the President should get involved and try to get this thing moving before the House -- both Houses go into recess. Is the President concerned at this point, that this thing --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President is involved and he'll continue to be involved. The White House, we remain in -- we are part of the discussions that are ongoing between congressional leaders in both the Senate and the House to get the intelligence reform moving forward. It's a high priority for the President that we get this done as soon as possible. We're continuing to talk with members of Congress. The President met with the Majority Leader and Speaker yesterday. I believe he's scheduled to meet with the bipartisan leadership tomorrow morning for breakfast, and I'm sure that this is one of the issues that they will discuss, because that's one of the big priorities before Congress, as they return here to Washington.
We also need to move forward on the appropriations process and make sure that we do so in a way that shows fiscal discipline and spending restraint.
Q Democrats have chosen Harry Reid to be the next Majority Leader -- Minority Leader, excuse me -- in replacing Tom Daschle. I think he's said he's willing to work with the House -- White House, without abandoning his Democratic principles. What's the view of the White House on Harry Reid?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President looks forward to working with him. He has spoken to him previously, in the last week, and we offer our congratulations to him on that new position. The President looks forward to working with him and other Democrats, so that we can move forward on our shared priorities.
Q Scott, I have a question, if I may. Does the President plan to visit the troops over the holidays, perhaps on his way home from South America?
MR. McCLELLAN: There's nothing to update on his schedule at this point, but the President visits often with our troops. We are all grateful for the great job that our men and women in the military are doing to make the world more secure. But nothing to update on his schedule at this point.
Q Nothing yet. Okay. What does the President hope to accomplish on his trip to South America, and does he plan to offer Colombia more money to fight the drug war?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, we're not doing -- we'll do more on a briefing tomorrow, so we'll keep you posted on that in terms of the trip. And, obviously, the meetings will take place, as well. But we have worked closely with Colombia to address those issues, and we have a good relationship with President Uribe and the President looks forward to going to Colombia.
In terms of the APEC agenda, as I said, the big priorities will focus on the security and economic side because they really go hand-in-hand. You need to make sure you have security so that you can move forward on the economic side, as well, and trade issues is something that we will continue to talk about, as well. But if you look back to the Bangkok meeting, I think you can expect that we'll be talking about ways to build on some of the security initiatives that were talked about at Bangkok.
Q Scott, on the President's meeting with CEOs this afternoon, is he going to ask of them anything specific, like bring pressure to Congress on some of his --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that this was set up more as a meeting for him to get their views on the economy, listen to their views, as well as talk about his agenda for the economy, his economic agenda for the second term. There's much we've accomplished to get the economy growing strong, and it continues to grow stronger. But there is more that we can do to make sure America continues to be the best place in the world to do business and create jobs and continue our economic growth. And the President -- I don't need to go through all those points with you, but we'll be talking about some of his second term agenda, I imagine, as well.
Q So he's seeking their input before any legislative package is formed or --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he meets with people on the economy on a regular basis, and this is part of those continuing efforts to move -- how we can work together to move forward to strengthen our economy.
Q Is there any timetable for some of these agenda items?
MR. McCLELLAN: Now that's getting into the policy transition, and so --
Q Go ahead.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- those are discussions that continue, as well. But you know that he has put forward a comprehensive agenda of big priorities and we intend to move forward on those priorities in a quick and deliberate manner. You've heard the ones he talked about during the campaign, whether it was strengthening Social Security for future generations, or tax reform, and we'll move forward on all those priorities and we're continuing to talk with members of Congress about the best ways to proceed.
Les, how are you?
Q I'm fine. (Laughter.) Thank you. Since the President once ran a professional baseball team and he is now at least a part-time resident of the District of Columbia, does he believe that the taxpayers should be beaned to build a new stadium for a privately-owned baseball --
MR. McCLELLAN: Those are local decisions, and I don't think -- I haven't heard the -- I haven't discussed it --
Q But he's the President and a baseball man.
MR. McCLELLAN: Okay, you ask me the questions and then you always jump in, in the middle of my response. (Laughter.) You know the kind of precedence that sets for others in this room. (Laughter.) So I haven't
talked to him about it. He does look forward to baseball coming to D.C., though.
Q All right. Does the President believe that the President of the tax-exempt and claimed to be non-profit Johns Hopkins University should be paid $897,786 a year?
MR. McCLELLAN: Are you talking about the head of Johns Hopkins?
Q That's right. I mean, this is supposed to be -- it's a tax-exempt and it's supposed to be non-profit. But they're paying this guy twice as much as the President is being paid.
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think those are presidential decisions.
Rick, go ahead.
Q Scott, there are reports that the United Nations is not being forthcoming with their audits on the oil-for-food program. What additional pressure can we put on Kofi Annan and the U.N. to come forward --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there's an investigation going on, headed by Paul Volcker. That investigation continues. We look forward to seeing the results of that investigation. We certainly had some information that was provided by Charles Duelfer in his last report. Congress is also looking into this. They have, certainly, a role to play in looking at some of these issues. And our position is to encourage the United Nations to do everything they can to cooperate with what members of Congress are looking into.
Q Well, apparently, they are not really cooperating, they are withholding more than 50 documents. What can we do to put their feet to the fire?
MR. McCLELLAN: Continue to encourage them to cooperate with the congressional investigation into the matter, as well. We look forward to seeing the results of their investigation, too. This is a serious matter.
Q Among the shared priorities that you said the President is looking forward to working with Democrats on, I wondered if this also includes pension reform. Because, as you know, the PBGC put out a report yesterday showing that their long-term deficit has doubled in just one year, and if nothing is done it could tank by 2020, if not earlier.
MR. McCLELLAN: Pension reform has been a priority of this administration. And, yes, we want to work with Congress to implement reform. We've consistently said that it's -- that companies making pension promises to workers and retirees must keep those promises. And we've called for reform of the pension system. The administration called for pension reform over a year ago, and today's account deficit statement that you reference should be taken as a sharp reminder that pension reform is needed. So, yes, we will be working with Congress and urging Congress to act on reform.
Q And, also, among these listening sessions the President is planning to have -- today it's with CEOs -- does the administration also have plans for the President to meet with organized labor or with environmental groups?
MR. McCLELLAN: We will always keep you posted of his meetings, but he meets with a diverse group of people from across the spectrum from time to time. So we'll keep you posted on any of those. I don't know why you're lumping it all together.
Q Scott, are we going to get a list of the CEOs who are in there today?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, we should be able to get you that.
Q Scott, the President said today that he wants Mrs. [sic] Rice to continue in foreign policy to confront outlaw regimes. My question to you is, does the President have more confidence in her than in Colin Powell to build up support at the United Nations to confront these outlaw regimes --
MR. McCLELLAN: He has great confidence in both. One, Secretary Powell's job continues until she is confirmed and in place. And it's not only --
Q She will be able to --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- I mean, we have that side of the equation, as well. But Dr. Rice, like Secretary Powell and the President, is someone who is strongly and firmly committed to advancing freedom, because that's how we address the root causes of terrorism and defeat terrorism in the long run. And she is someone who has worked very closely with the President on the Broader Middle East Initiative, on the Middle East peace process, and worked very closely with the President to move forward and support efforts to advance freedom around the world.
Q But some members of the Security Council consider her as one who doesn't appreciate very well the United Nations. So what's --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we've always said we want the United Nations to be an effective organization that means what it says and does what it says. And we will continue to work in that respect. But part of our reaching out and working together on the big challenges that we face in this dangerous time that we live in is to also reach out to members of the United Nations and work through those international institutions.
Q Is there any concern that Dr. Rice will face the same kind of problems at the State Department that Porter Goss has faced at the CIA?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, is there?
Q Is there any concern that Dr. Rice will face the same kind of problems at the State Department that --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not sure how you define the problems at the CIA. I mean, as I said, Director Goss is someone who has a long record of being committed to reform. And, certainly, there are some steps that will be taken to strengthen our intelligence-gathering capabilities. I wouldn't look at it just as a -- some of the personnel issues there.
Q Is reform coming at the State Department, then?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Dr. Rice will make decisions about any changes that may or may not be needed. But in terms of the State Department, you heard from her today how she praised the work of the career officials at the Department of State -- the Foreign Service officials and the others who work there day out -- day in and day out on our diplomatic efforts. And she appreciates the great work that they're doing and looks forward to being over there and working with them to help advance the President's agenda.
END 1:32 P.M. EST
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