For Immediate Release
May 20, 2005
Press Briefing by Deputy Press Secretary Trent Duffy
The James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:41 P.M. EDT
MR. DUFFY: Good afternoon, everyone. A quick opening comment,
then an announcement.
The U.S. economy continues to show its strength and the President
is very pleased with the continued strong job growth. Today the
government released new data showing that job growth increased in 46
states. Of course, last month we had 274,000 new jobs created, and
that is a total of 3.5 million new jobs since last May. So the
President is very pleased with that job growth.
The President also had a very good meeting with the Prime Minister
of Denmark this morning. They discussed progress in Iraq, the broader
movement to freedom and democracy around the world -- especially in
Europe -- steps forward in the Middle East between the Palestinian and
the Israeli people, and progress in the broader Middle East.
I have one announcement. The President will welcome German
Chancellor Gerhard Schr der to the White House for a meeting and
working lunch on June 27, 2005. Germany is a strong ally and partner
of the United States, working with us to advance freedom and reform,
promote prosperity and development, and counter terrorism and
proliferation around the world. Germany has played a leading role in
the international effort to assist the Afghan people with security,
developing the police, and reconstructing their nation.
Building on their February 2005 meeting in Mainz, Germany, the two
leaders intend to continue their discussion about how the United States
and Europe can work together on a broad agenda of global issues.
With that, I will be happy to take your questions.
Q Trent, a couple of questions. First, what's the President's
position on some of these conversations going on in the Senate to try
to broker some sort of a deal? Is he open to the idea of a compromise
that may get some of the judges through, and also bypass the idea of
ending the filibusters?
MR. DUFFY: The President has been quite clear that he continues to
believe that all of his judicial nominees deserve a simple up or down
vote in the Senate. As far as discussions about compromises, those are
discussions that are taking place in the Senate; those involve Senate
procedures and the President and the White House defer to Senate
leaders about Senate procedures. But the President's view has been very
clear, it hasn't changed one iota.
Q Well, but you -- perhaps you're intending to influence that.
If his position is inflexible with regard to getting all nominees an up
or down vote, then would he not agree to any compromise that may, in
effect, block one or more nominees?
MR. DUFFY: I think it's very clear the President just wants simple
up or down votes on his nominees, on all of them.
Q So is that to say that a compromise that would not provide
that is unacceptable?
MR. DUFFY: I think I've stated it as clearly as we can and we
defer to the --
Q Well, obviously not --
MR. DUFFY: -- defer to --
Q Is it a compromise --
MR. DUFFY: The President wants -- the President --
Q -- that doesn't get an up or down vote on all the nominees?
Is that acceptable or not?
MR. DUFFY: The President wants an up or down vote on all his
Q I have one other one.
MR. DUFFY: No, sorry, David.
Q One other question. The First Lady's trip, we discussed
earlier in the week, kind of her mission. Has it taken on added
significance in the light of some recent events -- the Newsweek
stories, the concerns about our image overseas? Does she have a
broader mandate now to represent the U.S.?
MR. DUFFY: I think the First Lady's trip had been planned for some
time, and obviously, the First Lady does represent the United States
overseas. She is a great representative for the U.S. overseas. She
recently went to Afghanistan. I know she's looking forward to
promoting the U.S. image overseas. I would dismiss any suggestion
that's in response to anything. I mean, she's been wanting to travel
-- you know that she's been wanting to travel to the region for quite
some time. So I think it's just a result of that.
Q And what's her primary focus there?
MR. DUFFY: To deal with promoting freedom and democracy overseas,
to discuss and to promote women's rights and human rights and free and
fair elections, and to continue to promote the U.S. image around the
Q You said earlier this morning that the President would
probably veto or that -- would veto a bill that would -- the Castle
bill that would loosen the 2001 restrictions on stem cell research.
What's the White House position on this bill that would encourage stem
cell research using blood from umbilical cords?
MR. DUFFY: The White House is looking favorably on legislation
that would maintain the President's principle that human life should
not be created for the sole purpose of destroying it. We do believe
that there is a lot of promise in some of the research in cord blood,
as well as adult stem cells, in addition to the human embryonic stem
cell research program that the President authorized. So the President
strongly supports that kind of research. We need to look at the
specifics of the kind of bill that's being discussed on cord blood, but
we think that that has some real promise.
Q Has promise, but you're not willing to endorse it yet?
MR. DUFFY: At this point I would decline to do that until we can
really study all the details.
Q The President was asked earlier this morning about these
photos of Saddam Hussein which have now appeared in a couple of
papers. He said that he didn't feel that these photos would inspire
the insurgents, the enemies of the United States, because they are
inspired by other things, by what he called their bad ideology and so
forth. He never really condemned the leaking of these photos, so what
is his reaction? Does he think this was a terrible thing that was
leaked? Or does he simply think it's not very important, because he
said it wouldn't inspire the insurgents to do more?
MR. DUFFY: Well, the President was asked if he thought the photos
would inspire the insurgents. The President responded that the
insurgents have already been inspired, way prior to these photos, to
kill and murder innocent civilians in America and around the world.
The President has been briefed on the situation regarding these
photographs, and he strongly supports the aggressive and thorough
investigation that's already underway. The source of these photos is
unknown at this time. These photos were wrong; they're a clear
violation of DOD directives, and possibly Geneva Convention guidelines
for the humane treatment of detained individuals.
And the multinational forces in Iraq, as well as the President, are
very disappointed at the possibility that someone responsible for the
security, welfare and detention of Saddam Hussein would take and
provide these photos for public release.
Q Well, the administration has said that the Newsweek
controversy, the alleged allegations that somebody stuffed pieces of
the Koran down a toilet in Guantanamo, had a serious impact and people
did die from that. Does the President feel that this could have some
kind of serious impact, too?
MR. DUFFY: I think this could have serious impact, as could the --
as we talked with the revelations of prisoner abuse. What the United
States did in both of those situations, however, is recognize that,
take immediate steps to investigate and get to the bottom of why it
happened, how it happened, and take steps to make sure, one, that
people are held to account -- and in the prisoner abuse instance there
are people being held to account, people are going to jail, people are
serving time because of those abuses -- and, likewise, there will be a
thorough investigation into this instance and similar accountability
measures will be taken.
Q Is it fair to say that the President was angry about the
leaking of these photos of Saddam Hussein?
MR. DUFFY: Listen, I've covered that. The President wants to get
to the bottom of it immediately.
Q Trent, you said yesterday that you think that Congress can do
both -- deal with the judicial nominees standoff and some of these
priorities like Social Security and the energy bill that the President
places a lot of importance on. But there's also the issue of Bolton's
nomination. Realistically, if the nuclear option is invoked, these
things will, at a minimum, get delayed. Is the President worried about
the risk to the Bolton nomination because of this?
MR. DUFFY: Well, the administration and the President are still
confident that John Bolton will be our next ambassador to the United
Nations and we're confident in his nomination. The President does
believe that the Congress has some serious work of the country ahead of
it. He believes that putting judges on the bench is an important part
of the obligation to the country, so that we have a fair justice system
that delivers speedy trials and continues our independent judiciary.
But there is other important business that the Senate has before
it, that the Congress has before it, and he's confident that they can
continue to do their work.
Q But is the importance that he places on getting these judges
through -- does that override the importance of these other
MR. DUFFY: They're equally important.
Q Trent, what's the President's reaction to the First Lady
saying she believes that, in fact, the President should have been
interrupted during his bike ride when we had the plane scare at the
White House? Does the President agree with the First Lady's
MR. DUFFY: The First Lady said that she has full confidence in the
Secret Service, and so does the President. They do excellent work.
They put their lives on the line each and every day to protect both the
President and the First Lady, their families, the Vice President, Mrs.
Cheney and their families. And that's all I have to say about it.
Q But the question is more, does he agree with the First Lady
that he should have been interrupted, not whether he believes Secret
Service does a good job.
MR. DUFFY: He agrees with the First Lady that the Secret Service
does an outstanding job and they have the full confidence in the Secret
Q Trent, two questions. One, yesterday President was speaking
at a function and he blamed India for the energy crisis and high oil
prices around the globe. And he said that India should come up with
some alternative oil and energy needs. Now, question is that if
President has any alternative energy plans for India, or he's willing
to help India in any way to come energy and oil crisis India is facing
MR. DUFFY: I'm not familiar with the comments, Goyal. I'll be
happy to go back and review them. The President believes that we have
an obligation, both at home, to have a comprehensive energy bill and
also to help our friends and allies around the world get the energy
that they need to keep their economies growing and to keep the world
economy growing. So I'll be happy to go and review the comments.
Q Second question, if I may, please. Recently, Catholic bishops
for the first time ever in the history called on the administration of
President Bush that illegal immigrants in this country should be given
permanent status or they should be made legal because this will be good
for the U.S. economy and they are not paying taxes and working for low
wages and living underground. Any comments on that?
MR. DUFFY: Well, the President has a temporary guest worker
program. The President is against blanket amnesty. But the President
wants to see a guest worker program that matches willing workers with
jobs that Americans are not interested in. He wants to see that passed
by the Congress. He does believe that our immigration policy needs to
be more humane, and needs to reflect the simple fact that people are
coming here to feed their families, and that we can have a more
compassionate immigration system, while also making sure that we're
securing our borders against those that might want to do us harm.
Q Is the U.S. government apologizing for this picture of Saddam
MR. DUFFY: The investigation is underway. It was a clear
violation of DOD guidelines. We don't yet know who is responsible for
the pictures, and until the investigation is finished, I wouldn't have
Q Two questions, Trent. Going back to Ed's question before,
Scott said repeatedly that the protocols were in place on the day of
the bike ride, and that there was no need to change them. In view of
the First Lady's concerns that her husband should have been notified,
should there be some consideration to changing those protocols?
MR. DUFFY: Well, as I said yesterday, the Secret Service is --
they are always, every day, every minute, assessing how they secure the
President and protect the President and the First Lady, so it's not any
incremental response to any action. Scott did say that there would be
a review, that there is and there will be. But every day the Secret
Service wakes up thinking about the best ways to protect the
Q Also, is it possible that these pictures might have come from
a non-U.S. source?
MR. DUFFY: As I just said, the source is unknown at this time,
which is why the military is investigating the matter.
Q Another way of saying it is, is Saddam only being guarded by
U.S. forces, or are other forces guarding him?
MR. DUFFY: I believe it's multinational forces.
Q Trent, two questions. It has been more than six months since
the election campaign, during which the President said he would push
for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Since that
time, we have seen little from him on that
vital issue. And my question, first question, is it still on his
agenda? And if so, what does he plan to do to make it a reality?
MR. DUFFY: It's absolutely on his agenda. He campaigned very much
in favor of a constitutional amendment. As you know, we had a House
vote last year -- came up a little short. And what the President wants
to see is the success of an amendment, so we need to build the kind of
grassroots pressure in favor of succeeding on an amendment so we can
get it passed. That's the best way to succeed, is to build that
Q There have been dozens of syndicated columnists and editorial
pages, including today, such as The Wall Street Journal, which have all
strongly denounced Newsweek. And the Drudge Report republished several
lines of the briefing transcript on Tuesday where certain network
people in this room "ripped into Scott on this issue," as Drudge
And my question, since MSNBC's Keith Olbermann wrote about Scott's
alleged letter of resignation, you can assure us that the President
regards this as being as asinine and abusive as the network bullying of
Scott, can't you?
MR. DUFFY: Let's see, if I start on that -- (laughter.) I think
we've been clear about Newsweek making an error, retracting their
story, and we --
Q What about the letter of resignation, this --
MR. DUFFY: Hold on a second, hold on --
Q -- the letter of resignation and the bullying of Scott?
MR. DUFFY: I think we've covered Newsweek cover to cover.
Q No -- no comment? You're not -- Scott has not submitted a
letter of resignation, has he?
Q He's gone. (Laughter.)
MR. DUFFY: Les, we all serve at the -- we all serve at the
pleasure of the President. Scott has not offered any letter of
Q So that is just absolutely rubbish, isn't it?
MR. DUFFY: Thank you, Les.
Q Where is Scott, seriously? (Laughter.)
Q Is the President at all concerned -- he talked earlier about
vetoing the Castle bill should it become law. Is he at all concerned
about the possibility of a veto override in either chamber, should it
get to that point?
MR. DUFFY: Well, of course, the vote hasn't taken place yet, but a
couple of things on stem cell. Remember that the President is the
first President in history of the United States to authorize human
embryonic stem cell research. That research is ongoing. Six hundred
stem cell samples have been issued to researchers under the President's
policy. And the reason the President supported it is because he wants
to find the live-saving cures that the stem cell research might have to
Now, his principle was -- is that we cannot cross a fundamental
moral line, as he said in the Oval Office some hours ago, about using
public money to support the destruction of human life.
The issue with the Castle bill is it does break that principle, and
it also may be unnecessary at this point because there are methods in
the scientific community that might give us the ability to extract stem
cells from human embryos without their destruction, or to obtain stem
cells some other way that would fit within the President's program.
As far as the question about the veto override, you know, we'll
have to let the vote take place. But you heard the President fairly
clearly on this.
Q Do you have anything on the coming meeting between President
Bush and the Greek Prime Minister, Kostas Karamanlis, at 1:15 p.m., I
MR. DUFFY: I don't have anything on that. We will likely have a
readout of the meeting following the meeting.
Q Here in the briefing room?
MR. DUFFY: We'll let you know.
Q Can I ask you one question on the photo of Saddam. Are there
rules for military guards that they cannot bring cameras when they're
on duty at the prison?
MR. DUFFY: All I know, it was a clear violation of DOD directives
that the photos were taken at all. So if you have specific questions
as to the Defense Department guidelines or the rules about that, you
might want to ask the Pentagon. But I know that it was a clear
violation; these photos are a clear violation of DOD policy.
Q Another thing, not related, on China. Chinese government just
announced that they're going to put increased tariff on 74 items --
textile exports, in a gesture to try to ease the trade tension between
China and the United States. Do you have anything on that, anything
that the Commerce might have some goodwill gesture also?
MR. DUFFY: Well, I think Commerce has taken the lead on that. I
mean, what the President is interested in and what the U.S. is
interested in is keeping our healthy trade relationship with China
going, but also making sure that that's a level playing field. That's
why Commerce took the actions that it did, that's why the U.S.
government took the actions that it did, so that we balance the need
for manufacturing jobs and good jobs here at home, along with consumer
prices. So as far as the specific actions that China took today, I
might refer you to the Trade Representative's Office or the Commerce
Department. But overall, what we are interested in is a level playing
field and furthering our good relationship with trade with China.
Q Trent, if I could ask something about prisoner abuse. There
was a report in The New York Times today from the Pentagon regarding
prisoner abuse at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. After Abu Ghraib,
you now have Bagram. Are you alarmed by a pattern emerging here?
MR. DUFFY: The President and the administration and the military
were alarmed by the reports of prisoner abuse, no matter where they
were, whether they be at Abu Ghraib or at Bagram. What the military
and what the President supported is investigations holding people to
account. I think seven people involved in the Bagram incidents are
currently being investigated and are being held to account.
Q But this doesn't help while the First Lady is on a goodwill
tour of the Middle East, does it?
MR. DUFFY: Well, but these are instances that have happened; we've
taken steps, we've taken new policies to ensure that this doesn't
happen again. We're holding people to account.
Q Trent, a clarification on the stem cells. You're saying the
President believes in the promise of human embryonic stem cell
research, but is concerned about taxpayer money being used to fund that
MR. DUFFY: He's concerned about taxpayer funding of a practice
which involves the destruction of human life, yes.
Q On the issue of cloning, the President just made a brief
statement at the beginning of that answer earlier in the Oval Office.
What we're hearing from South Korea, is this an issue of concern, given
the President's view?
MR. DUFFY: The President is definitely against human cloning. I
think what the Korean development suggests and tells us is that this is
the world in which we live. Science has amazing capabilities, but we
need to balance the need to push science as hard as we can to find
life-saving cures, but at the same time remember that we have ethical
and moral obligations, as well. But the President is dead-set against
human cloning. The U.S. pushed for a ban on international human
cloning in the U.N. this, I think, fall, and won. So our position is
very clear about that.
Q Trent, can I ask just one other question about the pictures of
MR. DUFFY: Sure.
Q In your mind, in the President's mind, is there a difference
between these images and the images which this government broadcast
around the world after his capture, of his hair being inspected and his
mouth being inspected by a physician?
MR. DUFFY: There is, and I can get further details about why it's
different. But the photos that were released today are a human being
in custody, of a detainee, and they are possibly in clear violation of
Geneva Convention guidelines. The photos that were released after
Saddam Hussein's capture were within -- were within our guidelines
under the Geneva Conventions, is my understanding.
Q I, for one, would be interested in how the administration
views the distinction. Is that to say that a violation of the
Convention is that these were -- there was an attempt to humiliate a
prisoner here? Is that the idea -- you leak pictures of him in his --
you know, in a state of undress, and so forth?
MR. DUFFY: I'm not the international lawyer, but I think we can
definitely get some more information about the differences, the
distinction between the photographs that were released following his
capture versus the ones we're talking about today.
Q If that could be sent out, I, for one, would be interested in
MR. DUFFY: Yes, I'd be happy to get that for you.
Q Trent, I think you've done a very good job, but I was
wondering, is Scott -- when does Scott come back, and where is he?
MR. DUFFY: The honorable Scott McClellan is providing a
commencement speech at the University of Texas, his alma mater. He is
very honored to do that. And we have to close out here so we can go
live to that exciting speech. I'm sure you all want to cover it.
Q When will he be back?
MR. DUFFY: He'll be back Monday, yes, sir.
Q Let me just ask a follow-up on Terry's question about the use
of blood from the umbilical cord. I can't come away with this thing --
the President would not veto the House leadership bill? He would veto
the Castle bill, but he would not veto the House leadership bill?
MR. DUFFY: What I was telling Terry is that we think that that
approach for cord blood, which we think has a lot of good promise
within the President's moral principle, we need to study a little
closer. But we agree with the approach that it's taking. It's
premature to suggest what the President may or may not do on the
legislation about cord blood.
Q Thank you.
MR. DUFFY: Thank you.