For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 19, 2005
Press Briefing by Scott McClellan
PRESS BRIEFING BY SCOTT McCLELLAN
Social Security/Chairman Thomas.......................1-7, 12-16
Dr. Rice hearings/criticism on Iraq policy.....................5 Iraq
speech prep...............................................7 Swearing-in
ceremony/security issues.........................7-9 President's
Korea/congressmen's visit...............................14 Far
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release January 19, 2005
PRESS BRIEFING BY SCOTT McCLELLAN
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:48 P.M. EST
MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon. Hope everybody made it here
through the snow. The President is looking forward to taking the oath
of office tomorrow. He is honored to be given the opportunity by the
American people to continue serving for another four years. The
President, in his remarks, will talk about the historic times in which
we live, and he'll talk about his hopeful vision for America and the
world. He will be addressing the American people and the world in his
It is a liberty speech. The President will talk about the power of
freedom; peace is secured by advancing freedom. And I also expect the
President will talk about how the ideals and values that we hold so
dearly, our deepest-held beliefs, promote our most vital interest.
America has great influence, and the President believes it is vital to
our interest to use it to make the world a better and safer place. And
the President will also talk about extending freedom at home by
reforming our institutions and building an ownership society. The
President will talk about the importance of character, and the remarks
will also highlight the philosophy that guides us as we work together
to build a better and more hopeful world, and a stronger America. And
the President is very much looking forward to tomorrow's events.
And with that, I will be glad to take questions.
Q So does the President believe that his Social Security
proposals will still have a life by the time they get to Congress?
MR. McCLELLAN: Which proposal are you referring to, John? The
President has outlined some very clear principles that should guide us
as we move forward to address Social Security. Social Security faces
many serious challenges and members on both sides of the aisle in
Congress recognize the problems facing Social Security and the need to
move forward on solutions to address it now, because it only gets worse
And so there are a number of congressional leaders that we're
reaching out to and talking to about ideas for how we move forward
together to solve this problem. The President looks forward to
listening to all ideas that are consistent with his principles about
how we can move forward to get it done this year.
Q But in an article, one prominent Republican pronounced the
idea a "dead horse." And I'm just wondering if the President thinks he
can still reinvigorate that horse and ride it up to the Hill.
MR. McCLELLAN: I would encourage you to read his entire remarks,
because he said a lot more than what you just referenced. And, in
fact, he said that he didn't want to rule anything in or out. And you
might want to talk to his office, as well. He was talking about the
need to move forward on solving a problem. The President believes very
strongly that we must solve problems, not pass them on to future
Q Scott, they're not mutually exclusive. You can not rule
anything in or out, and still say, as the Congressman did, that he
believes that partisan bickering will render the President's proposal
to create private accounts a "dead horse." He was making a
prediction. Does the President find it helpful that Republican
lawmakers are already wagering on what will happen with the --
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know that you're characterizing exactly
what he said correctly. I think you should talk to his office about
what he was saying. But let me make it very clear; we have great
respect for Chairman Thomas and his leadership. He's someone that we
will continue to work very closely with as we move forward to solve
this problem. He recognizes, as do other members in Congress on both
sides of the aisle, that we have a serious problem facing Social
Security and we need to act now to solve that problem, because this is
a problem that will continue to get worse over time, our options would
become much more limited.
Right now, younger workers are facing massive tax increases or
massive benefit cuts under the current system. The President wants to
help them realize a greater rate of return on their savings by adding a
new benefit, and taking other steps to strengthen Social Security.
We're going to work very closely with members on both sides of the
aisle as we move forward. But what's important is that we act now.
It's important that -- or I think significant that members are talking
about how we can solve this problem and the need to act on it now.
That's a significant first step for moving forward in a bipartisan --
bipartisan way to get this problem solved this year.
Look, legislation -- legislation, anytime it goes through Congress,
tends to change during the process. The President looks forward to
working with members to move forward on legislation. And we'll be
talking about it more in the coming weeks and months.
Q There does appear to be some restiveness up on the Hill, and
even Congressman McCrery indicated that the President needs to lead on
this issue, that they were looking for more guidance from the
President; rather than some larger principles, they wanted specifics so
they could move forward. When would you expect that the President --
MR. McCLELLAN: The President is leading on this issue. He led on
this issue in 2000; he led on this issue in the 2004 campaign; and he
has made it very clear he will continue to lead on this issue. He's
had good meetings with members of Congress, both Democrats and
Republicans alike, to talk about how we can move forward on this
important priority. And he's made it very clear that he will continue
leading as we move forward on this issue, but that he wants to work
closely with congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle who
recognize there is a problem, to get something done. And that's -- the
President believes that we have an obligation to lead and act to
address our most pressing problems. And this is one of them and that's
what he will do.
Q What is your understanding of what Chairman Thomas was
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't speak for members of Congress. I'll let
them speak for themselves.
Q No, but you clearly have an understanding. You're quibbling
with what some people here interpreted --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, it was interesting, I read some of the
coverage of his remarks yesterday, and there was one paper that played
up certain things that he said, but there was other coverage that gave
a fuller account of what he was talking about. But what I do know he
was talking about was that we have a serious problem facing Social
Security. And he was talking about the need to look at solutions for
getting it done. That's the -- that's the kind of people that the
President wants to work closely with to get this done.
Q So you don't think that he was suggesting that you didn't have
a chance on Capitol Hill, but rather that it would face some partisan
MR. McCLELLAN: I think you should look at some of the other
coverage. I'll let him speak for himself about what he was talking
about. But I pointed out that during the legislative process you
expect that legislation to change. That's part of working to get
things done. And the President looks forward to continuing to work
with members and continuing to work with Chairman Thomas and other
leaders to get this done.
Q Is that what you saw as the bottom line in his remarks, that
legislation gets up there and gets changed, so you have to work with
both sides? Is that --
MR. McCLELLAN: I thought what was important about his remarks is
that he's talking about the serious challenges facing Social Security
and the need to move forward together to address that challenge.
Q Scott, does the President still believe that there's a crisis
MR. McCLELLAN: John. I'll come back to you. Go ahead, John.
Q Two questions, one, half in jest --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll come back to you.
Q -- half in jest, I guess, on the subject we're still talking
about. But now that he has Chairman Thomas to negotiate with and not
just himself -- (laughter) -- is the President willing to maybe say a
little bit more about how he'd pay for this, or what he might change in
Social Security as part of his plan?
MR. McCLELLAN: We're continuing to talk with members of Congress
about how to move forward together to address this problem that Social
Q Wondering how you would react to a common theme that came up
at Dr. Rice's confirmation hearings, a pointed criticism by Democrats,
including Senator Biden and some others, that in their view, that Dr.
Rice -- and the rest of the administration, for that matter -- are not
leveling with the American people about what they call problems in
Iraq, and not willing to say that, yes, some mistakes were made along
MR. McCLELLAN: John, I think you had an interview with the
President yesterday, and you talked about these very issues. The
President was very up front with the American people about what we're
facing in Iraq and what we're working to achieve in Iraq. You went
through some of these very issues in your interview, I think. And I
apologize if it was Jim's interview, and not yours -- but I think it
was yours. (Laughter.)
Q It wasn't mine. (Laughter.)
Q Just to clarify. (Laughter.)
Q Not this time, anyway. (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: All right, Steve, you'll get one before him.
(Laughter.) Just kidding.
Q Does the President still believe there's a crisis in Social
Security and that the crisis is now?
MR. McCLELLAN: John, we talked about this last week. We can argue
over the words crisis or not a crisis, but the bottom line is that
there is a serious problem facing Social Security. Younger workers
today -- my generation and younger generations expect that they won't
have any savings, when they retire, in their Social Security accounts.
That's why the President wants to act to strengthen it. We see that in
2018 that the number of people paying into the system won't be able to
support the benefits being paid out and that --
Q I understand the math --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- and that gets worse over time.
Q -- but it was just that idea of a "crisis." And if there's an
argument, the argument is with yourselves, it's not with us, because he
was the one who used the word.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think when you -- that's why I'm pointing out
the demographic facts. If you look at the demographic facts, I think
they're very clear that there is a serious problem facing Social
Security. Some people can argue that there's not a problem facing
Social Security, but they're just sticking their head in the sand and
ignoring a problem that's only going to get worse over time. We stand
by what we said before. But I said, regardless of whether or not you
want to argue crisis or not a crisis, I think we can -- I think most
people will agree that we face a serious challenge and a real problem
with Social Security and we need to act to address it now.
When you talk about 1950, you had 16 workers to support every one
retiree, and today you have about 3.3 to support every retiree, and
that number keeps going down. You're going to have shortfalls into the
system. And it's only going to get worse over time until it goes
bankrupt in 2042, according to the Social Security trustees. And our
options become much more limited over time if we don't act now. We
have more options available to us today than we will tomorrow. And the
President believes that's why we need to take advantage of this
opportunity and solve this problem.
Q First on Social Security. Can we take your carefully hedged
remarks about specific proposals to mean that the President has not yet
decided whether to send to the Hill something with specifics in it?
MR. McCLELLAN: We never get into internal discussions here, but I
think the President has made it clear that he intends to put forward
some possible solutions so that we can move forward together to get
this solved this year. So I think he's made that -- he's made that
We'll have more to say about it as we move forward on the process.
The President is not going to get into discussing those specifics here
in the media, or anything of that nature. He wants to talk about it
directly with members of Congress.
Q Not asking about the specifics, I'm asking whether he's going
to have a plan, or multiple plans.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he's put forward some important principles
and things that need to be included in any proposal, like personal
retirement accounts, no increases in payroll taxes, and no changes for
those at or near retirement. And that's how we're going to move
forward. But he'll be talking about it more over the course of time.
Then we can come to specific questions about it.
Q Can you update us on his preparations for the speech tomorrow,
what he's doing? Is everything locked in --
MR. McCLELLAN: He was supposed to have some speech preparation a
short time ago, but that's been pushed back to later in the afternoon.
I think some of the events from this morning ran a little bit late, and
he's participating in a family luncheon right now over in the
Residence. He has a number of family members here for tomorrow's
events. And I think we, in fact, plan to release a photo of that -- of
the family to everybody later today. I think they're going to take a
picture on the South Portico.
The President, right now, is on draft 21 of his remarks. The edits
that have taken place over the last few days are very minor edits at
this point. But every time there's a change, it becomes a new draft.
It's still expected to be 17 minutes long, and I talked about some of
the general themes that he will be discussing tomorrow in his remarks.
He's looking forward to it.
Q Do you have any indication of whether the weather might affect
any of the plans?
MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't heard any update at this point.
Obviously, we're looking outside just like you all are. And I know
that the latest forecast was predicting snow, but there's always a
Q It slowed things down this morning, though, right? Was that
one of the problems this morning?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know that the weather was the specific
problem. I think that some of these events, as we saw yesterday, like
the "Saluting Those Who Serve" event just ran a little long.
Q He saw the Washington Bible this morning. Does he want to use
that tomorrow for the ceremony?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he will be using a family Bible that he used
in 2000 -- or 2001, I'm sorry -- that I know his brother used for his
gubernatorial inaugural. And I know that that's a Bible that his
father used in addition to the one that George Washington used. They
used two Bibles. And I know the intention back in 2001 was to also use
the George Washington Bible, but because of the weather and the fragile
nature of that Bible, it was not used. They were going to -- but his
father used both Bibles for his swearing-in ceremony.
Q What will they do tomorrow? Will they -- is he going to use
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the intention is to use the family Bible.
Q And can I follow up and ask about -- the President comes down
from the Hill; obviously, the security around Washington different than
it was four years. Does the President feel that that's at all
restricting or limiting or restraining the celebration this year?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that the authorities have gone to great
lengths to make sure that they're -- that people can have as much
access as possible, while also making sure that they're taking steps to
provide for the security of this event. This was an event that was
designated a national special security event so the Secret Service is
in charge of it, and I think they're doing an outstanding job to
balance those concerns to make sure people have the access to enjoy and
celebrate this great American tradition, as well as to take care of the
security needs that come with an event of this nature, particularly
during the time of war that we are in.
Q So the President doesn't feel the restraint as he moves down
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think that they've gone to great lengths to
make sure that they have the appropriate security measures in place,
some of which you'll see and some of which you won't, and to make sure
that everybody who is participating in the inaugural will be able to
enjoy the celebration. This is -- the inaugural is a time for all
Americans to come together, and for all of us to focus on how we can
work together to achieve great goals. And the President looks forward
to all of tomorrow's events. He looks forward to tonight's
"Celebration of Freedom" Concert. As you know, the theme for the
inaugural is celebrating freedom, honoring service. And he began
yesterday by paying tribute to our men and women in uniform. And I
expect he will continue to pay tribute to their courage and sacrifice
in his remarks tomorrow.
Q Were all of the President's siblings at the luncheon today?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think they were all scheduled to be there. I'm
not over there, it's going on right now. But you'll have the group
picture so you can look and see for yourself. But when I looked at it,
I think they were all expected to be there.
Q You mentioned this morning the President was going to speak at
the chairman's event -- luncheon. We weren't able to cover that. Can
you tell us what -- what he told them at the chairman's luncheon, and
what he's going to say tonight at the candlelight dinners?
MR. McCLELLAN: It was just brief, informal remarks to the
chairman's luncheon. He made some similar remarks, I think, yesterday
to the RNC Committee members and to the chairman's meeting -- or
reception that was held yesterday evening. I think it's some of what
you have heard publicly when the President has talked about his
upcoming remarks and the meaning of this inaugural and the significance
of this moment in our history.
Q Do you want to share any of his --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you've heard from him; I'll leave it where he
did. I've shared for you some information about tomorrow's remarks, as
well. Glad to --
Q We actually didn't hear from him today.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- glad to talk about that further, as well. But
you've heard from him over the last few days. But what was the last
part of your question?
Q Tonight, he speaks also -- do you want to tell us what he's
going to tell them?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, it will be brief remarks. This is a concert
that is being held for the thousands of people that are coming to town
to celebrate the inaugural. And there will be a number of people
attending this particular event. And so it will be brief remarks
talking about the significance of the moment we are in. I expect he'll
talk about how this is a time of unity for America. And I expect he'll
talk about the opportunity we have before us that we need to seize to
achieve great goals, as I mentioned a second ago. And I expect he will
briefly touch on tomorrow's remarks, talking about the importance of
advancing freedom and the power of freedom. That's a quick overview of
his remarks tonight, but it's a brief --
Q That's the open event, the Celebration of Freedom?
MR. McCLELLAN: That's correct.
Q So he does make remarks there? Okay.
MR. McCLELLAN: Brief remarks.
Q And any update on text release tomorrow morning of the
MR. McCLELLAN: No, we're working on all that, taking into concern
Q Scott, as you've been talking about this is a time for all
Americans to come together, and you were also saying that the President
wants to work with those who have ideas that are consistent with his
principles -- how does that mesh with this is a time to come together?
Because many people do not necessarily agree with the President and
many people -- to listen to what was said with Dr. Rice's confirmation
hearings, Republicans and Democrats alike were both saying, look, the
President needs to hear yeses and noes, as well. How is that going to
play now in the second term?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, are you talking about specific issues? Are
you talking about Social -- I mean, on Social Security, the President
Q Not just Social Security, everything.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's what you started with. Well, the
President has made it very clear that he will continue to elevate the
discourse in this town and he will continue reaching out to all those
want to work together to confront the big challenges that we face and
to achieve big things for the American people. We were elected to come
to Washington to get things done. We have an obligation to act and to
lead, to solve the problems facing America. And we have an obligation
to use the influence that we have in the world to advance the ideals
that we hold so dearly. Now it's not imposing anything in terms of
American views, but it's helping others attain the freedoms they aspire
Q Well, as the President says, his arm is longer now, reaching
to those who voted for John Kerry. Many are saying, look, the politics
are over. This is a time for him to really get down to the brass tacks
MR. McCLELLAN: The President has said that.
Q He's not going to run for office again --
MR. McCLELLAN: That's correct. He's talked about that, as well.
Q Right, politics are over. So why not discuss other issues.
Get those dissenting voices in here --
MR. McCLELLAN: April, the President was elected in a -- with a
clear vote from the American people on an agenda. The American people
looked at the two candidate's agendas and they made a decision. One of
the things that the President talked about in the first term was his
regret that he wasn't able to do more to change the tone in Washington,
D.C. But I think if you look at his record, he has always worked to
elevate the discourse. He has always worked to reach out to those on
the other side of the aisle who want to get things done. We
accomplished many big things in the first term by working in a
bipartisan way, by reaching out. And people were willing to reach
Now, it got closer to the election time period and, unfortunately,
partisan politics came more into play, and some of the partisan tone of
Washington, D.C. increased. And -- but the President is not up for
election again. He's here to get things done for the American people.
And he hopes that members of Congress will look at this as an
opportunity to do more to change the tone and do more to work together
to achieve big things for the American people. But he has an
obligation to lead on the agenda that he campaigned on for the American
people. And he also believes it's important to reach out to those
across the aisle to listen to their ideas and focus on how we can move
forward together on the agenda that he outlined.
Q Two brief questions. First, you said yesterday morning that
the President has filled all statutory required Cabinet positions so
far. At least a few years ago, I seem to recall the United Nations
ambassador being part of the President's Cabinet, and that position
remains vacant. Do we expect an announcement on that soon?
MR. McCLELLAN: Continuing to move forward on it. Stay tuned.
Q Stay tuned. Second, you spoke very forcefully about --
MR. McCLELLAN: He does appreciate the job that Ambassador Danforth
has done in the time that he's been there.
Q You spoke very forcefully about liberty in Iraq and
democracy. You made many good statements, in the Ukraine when people
were denied the right to vote and the election had to be run again.
Would the administration say the same thing about Washington state,
where surveys show more than 50 percent of the people don't believe
their governor was legitimately elected?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, that's a matter that's been in dispute
between the various parties, the Democratic and the Republican Party.
They've been working to address that, and we'll let them address it. I
think we've made our views clear on certain issues that have come up in
Q You spoke earlier about a time line -- or about seeing Social
Security done by the end of the year. Is there any kind of time line
that you guys are looking at in terms of introducing legislation and
getting it through Congress?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President had talked about -- or
referenced the other day in one of his interviews that he would like to
see major action taken by both chambers in a matter of several months.
But we're going to continue working with congressional leaders on the
time line. This is one of his top priorities. I think members of
Congress have talked about how they intend to move forward on this
soon, and make it a high priority. We've had good discussions with
them about that. And we'll move as quickly as we can, working closely
with congressional leaders to get it done.
Q Scott, on the President's goal of building an ownership
society, do you agree or do you believe that younger workers could
achieve greater retirement savings in other ways, besides carving out
payroll contributions, namely by expanding IRAs such as the lifetime
savings account the Treasury has tried to propose in the last --
MR. McCLELLAN: We believe that by giving them a new benefit under
the personal retirement accounts they will be able to realize a greater
rate of return on their own retirement savings. That's the goal of
that. It's also part of the goal to give them more ownership over
their own retirement savings. It's a philosophical view. The
President trusts people. We want the American people to have more
control over their own lives. We want the American people to have more
say over their own lives. We want them to be able to have more control
over their own retirement savings. We want them to be able to own a
home. We want them to be able to start a small business. We want them
to be able to have more say over their health insurance plans. So it's
a philosophy behind the ownership society that he will be talking about
Q But couldn't that goal be achieved by expanded IRAs?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President has talked about why he believes that
this is the right approach to take for strengthening Social Security
for younger workers. I know there are differing views on this. I
think he's made his views very clear.
Q Earlier when we talked about Social Security and Chairman
Thomas's remarks, you correctly pointed out that some of the news
reports had misrepresented his remarks. Do you get the sense that this
is more of the battle that you're going to face?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not challenging the quotes -- just to be
clear. I'm just saying that there are some different accounts of the
Q But they were taken out of context and led readers to believe
that Chairman Thomas was going to kill this plan, when, in fact, he is
very supportive of it, and that Republicans are just waiting for this
opportunity to receive something in Congress that they can move forward
with. So do you feel that you're going to get fair play going forward
in this discussion?
MR. McCLELLAN: This is an important discussion to have, and I
think that there is a lot of attention being focused on the problem
facing Social Security. That's a good thing. And we want to continue
to talk about that. The President will continue to speak directly to
the American people and he'll continue to reach out directly to
congressional leaders to talk about how we can move forward. The first
thing we have to do is have a common understanding of the problem
facing Social Security. The facts are very clear about the problems
facing Social Security. And the President wants to reach out and work
in a bipartisan way to move forward to solve that problem.
Go ahead in the back.
Q Thank you so much. A week ago, several congressmen went to
North Korea -- like Congressman Weldon just came back to Washington
yesterday -- he got a message from North Korea. Did the President meet
these congressmen so far? And if not, he's going to meet -- he's going
to get any briefing?
MR. McCLELLAN: I know that they've met -- they've met with some
leaders within the administration and talked to them about their trip.
The State Department talked about that the other day. We continue to
-- we remain hopeful that North Korea will come back to the six-party
talks very soon. It's important that we move forward on the
multilateral approach that this administration is pursuing. All
countries in that region have made it very clear they want a
nuclear-free peninsula. And they're sending the same message to North
We put forward a proposal at the last round of talks, the last
round of six-party talks, and it's important that when we come back to
the talks, we talk about how we can move forward in a substantive way
on that proposal. We believe that that was a proposal that addresses
all the concerns of the various parties and is a good place to begin
moving forward to resolving North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Q Scott, does the administration believe it's actually making
headway in convincing the public that Social Security is approaching a
crisis in the years ahead? I noticed Democrats and others are accusing
the administration of employing the politics of fear to advance the
MR. McCLELLAN: I would hope people would focus on solutions to
problems, rather than trying to obstruct ways to get things done. And
that's the attitude the President is going into this important
discussion with. He wants to work together to solve this problem.
There are many members on both sides of the aisle that recognize
there's a problem. And John asked earlier today, was it a crisis -- we
can look right back to what President Clinton said in 1998; he said it
was, and he talked about the situation facing Social Security. It's
only gotten worse since that time. We've continued to take patchwork
approaches to addressing the problem facing Social Security. The
President wants a permanent solution, so that our younger workers will
be able to realize a greater rate of return on their own retirement
savings and have those retirement savings there when they retire.
Right now they have an empty promise because the system is
But as I said, the facts are very clear. And if people want to
argue that it's not a problem, that's perfectly their right to do, but
I think the American people recognize it's a problem. I know younger
workers recognize that it's a serious problem because I know younger
Americans don't believe that they're going to have their retirement
savings there when they are ready to retire. And I think you've seen a
number of surveys talking about -- or showing that there is a lot of
support for the idea of personal retirement accounts that would be
based on allowing the workers, if they so choose, to have something
similar to what federal employees have today. These are safe
investments that have helped federal workers realize a greater rate of
return on their retirement savings through the Thrift Savings Plan.
Q Do you believe that quibbling over the word "crisis," itself,
is distracting from the main argument?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that was one point I was discussing
earlier. We can debate whether it's a crisis or not a crisis, but the
facts are very clear and it is a serious problem facing Social
Security. It is a problem that gets worse over time. We've made clear
we believe it is. And I think President Clinton and other democratic
leaders have made clear that it is. Now it's time to talk about how we
can find solutions to this problem.
Q In furtherance of an ownership society, will the President
take the lead in attacking farm subsidies?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, in terms of the ownership society, I think
the President is going to be talking about what I addressed the other
day. I mean, he's already spoken to the issue of farm subsidies and
things of that nature. I think our views are known on that issue, and
we'll continue to work with Congress as we move forward on those
issues, as well.
Q You brought up something I said earlier, so I wanted to bring
up something you said earlier. (Laughter.)
Q Just because. (Laughter.)
Q -- second term. (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: No, it doesn't start until tomorrow. (Laughter.)
That's the way to end the first term, John? (Laughter.)
Q You've said that we've got more options now --
MR. McCLELLAN: He wants another interview.
Q You can drag this out just as long as you like. (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not in a hurry.
Q You've said that we've got more options now to pick Social
Security than we will down the road. Other than the ability to
maximize private accounts for today's younger workers, what options are
there available to you now that won't be available to you in 2018 --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, there are a number of ideas being discussed.
But the tax increases will only grow over time. And the benefit
reductions will have to be more drastic. And the options available
will become more along the lines of the need to raise the retirement
age significantly and things of that nature. I think everybody has
pointed out, and the bipartisan commission that the President appointed
has pointed out how the problem gets worse over time and your options
become more limited for addressing it, because you have less -- you
have a shorter amount of time in which to act, and you have a much
worse problem. So your options do become more limited.
Q Thank you.
MR. McCLELLAN: Thank you.
END 1:19 P.M. EST