For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 6, 2005
Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En route Riga, Latvia
9:57 A.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: Good morning, everybody. I hope everybody had a good breakfast, maybe a little bit of a nap. This is the first gaggle of our lengthy flight. I want to update you on a couple of things. First of all, the President's morning. The President, early in the flight, spoke with Prime Minister Blair. This was a congratulatory call. The President looks forward to continuing to work with Prime Minister Blair. And the President congratulated him on an historic third victory.
Then, following that, the President had his intelligence briefing onboard the flight. You all may not have seen -- probably haven't seen it yet, but the latest employment numbers came out today, and they show that 274,000 jobs -- new jobs were created in April, and they revised previous months upward -- up an additional 93,000 jobs. So we have now seen 3.5 million jobs created since May of 2003. Employment is at an all-time high. More Americans are working than ever before. We are seeing strong, sustained growth and job creation because of the pro-growth policies of the President.
And we need to continue to build upon those economic policies, while working to pass meaningful lawsuit reform, get the energy bill passed, have a responsible budget that keeps us on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009, and Social Security reform. And I think that's all I had to begin with. Just wanted to bring your attention to those -- and the unemployment rate stayed at 5.2 percent in this latest report, as well. And as you all, I think, saw yesterday, productivity is at a nine-month high, as well. We do remain concerned about high energy prices, but those have come down some in recent weeks, as well.
Q Do you believe that North Korea is preparing for a nuclear test?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't want to get into discussing intelligence matters, but what I would say is that if North Korea did take such a step, that would just be another provocative act that would further isolate it from the international community. All countries in the region are committed to seeing a nuclear-free Peninsula. And we have been working, through the six-party process, to make sure that that objective is met. And so we want to see North Korea come back to the six-party talks and discuss, in a serious way, how to move forward on the proposal we've outlined.
Q Scott, did Putin make comments today where he denounced the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, which is not something you get to weave into a question at the White House very often. There were remarks he apparently made today where he denounced the pact as, I think, the administration wanted him to do.
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me double check that. I haven't seen any updated news reports on the flight. You heard that --
Q It would be that he said -- he was referring to the 1989 denunciation by then Soviet Union parliament. And I think he said it was done then, and as the successor state, we --that applies to us, as well. So it was kind of a back-door way of saying --
MR. McCLELLAN: This morning?
Q I don't know the exact timing of when he said it, but I saw the news reports this morning.
M. MRCLELLN: I didn't see any of the news coverage.
Q If you could comment on that, that would be --
MR. McCLELLAN: Okay, let me take a look at what he said.
Q The Soviet action applies to Russia, as well.
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q That what the Soviets did applies to Russia.
MR. McCLELLAN: I saw some of his comments yesterday, but I haven't seen his comments today.
Q What does the President think about the fact that the Russians were protesting his trip to the Baltics in a former letter to the Secretary of State? How does he feel about the Russians trying to tell the U.S. President where he can and can't go?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I don't know that I'd necessarily look at it that way, first of all. But the President looks forward to going to Latvia and visiting with the Baltic leaders of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. He's previously been to Lithuania, as you are aware. And again, the purpose of this trip is to honor the sacrifice of Americans, Europeans, Russians who helped bring about victory over the Nazis and end fascism in Europe during World War II, and to mark the growth of democracy and freedom in the region. And it's also an opportunity just to really underscore the President's commitment to continuing to work with countries in Europe and beyond to advance freedom and democracy and tolerance around the world.
But the President looks forward to going to Russia and celebrating victory in World War II. And he also looks forward to going to Latvia and using that to mark the mark the occasion of the end of the Cold War, as well, because the end of the Cold War led to the growth of freedom and democracy in Central and Eastern Europe, and it was a significant moment. And it also helped to advance freedom in other parts of the world, as well.
But I just -- I don't know that I'd look at it the same way as you do, David, in terms of what you're saying.
Q The Russians have protested the fact that he's going to the Baltic States. What is the President's response to the fact that they communicated that protest to the Secretary of State?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the President's response is that he looks forward to the trip, going to both Latvia and Russia. That's the President's response -- and Georgia, and The Netherlands, as well. One thing he's talked about in his letter to the Baltic leaders was that he understands and respects the decisions each of them came to when deciding whether or not to attend the ceremony in Russia. And he also has stated that we have to remember the past as we look ahead, to work together on advancing our shared ideals and values that are based on democracy and freedom, and that the end of World War II marked the beginning of a painful period for the Baltic States. And we must remember that as we look to the future.
Q Any reaction to Senate Democrats seeking even more documents now on John Bolton?
MR. McCLELLAN: I reacted to it yesterday. The State Department has been very responsive to make sure the committee has the information that it needs. John Bolton has been very responsive in addressing the issues that have been raised, both in the hearing, as well -- in the hearing before the committee, as well as in written testimony following that hearing. We want to see John Bolton confirmed as soon as possible, so that he can get to the United Nations and get about the work of reform.
Q Is this a delaying tactic, do you think, or --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the committee, as the chairman has indicated, are prepared to come back and vote on May 12th, I believe it is. And we want to -- we continue to urge them to move forward quickly on the nomination. This is a matter of reform at the United Nations. John Bolton is the right person to go about helping to implement important reforms at the United Nations. And I think that the issues that some continue to bring up have been addressed. It's time to get about voting on him.
Q Scott, there was talk of a couple veterans events, where the President was going to meet with veterans, in both The Netherlands and Moscow. But those don't appear on the schedule. Was there some problem with getting those arranged, or what -- was there some problem with getting those arranged? Why is he not going that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Getting what arranged?
Q Meetings with veterans events, with veterans in The Netherlands and Moscow.
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me double check. I'm not sure that -- I suspect that there are going to be veterans there that he will meet with.
Q Not a formal, scheduled --
MR. McCLELLAN: Right, I don't know that it's part of -- a public event, per se. But I think that he does plan to meet with veterans that are there at those events. And certainly, when he goes to The Netherlands, he will be at the American cemetery there. Those remarks there are really a time to pay tribute to all the Americans, as well as Europeans and others, who sacrificed to end tyranny and win World War II.
Q Do you want to set up his speech tomorrow?
MR. McCLELLAN: We're still a little bit in advance of it. Maybe when we get a little bit closer. Let me just talk generally about it. Maybe we can talk a little bit more about it later. I think this is a speech that you all will be interested in hearing.
The President, in his remarks, will expand on his inaugural address. I think in his remarks he will mark the occasion of the end of World War II, but also talk about what that period meant for the Baltic States. And he'll talk about the painful history that they went through after World War II, and while it meant liberation for parts of Europe, it did not -- the Baltic States did not realize that until many years later, because of the government that was imposed on them by the Soviet Union. So I think he'll touch on that in his remarks.
But he'll really focus on the importance of advancing freedom and democracy in the world, and talk about how the Cold War really marked a period of great advance -- of a really great advance in freedom. This has been an age of the advance of freedom. And the President will talk about the obligations that free societies have. For free societies to really be sustained, they have to be built on some fundamental values. Those include the rule of law, protection of minorities and minority rights, open, inclusive societies. And I think he'll also talk about the important structures of democratic societies, and strong, independent -- the importance of strong and independent institutions.
So this is really a speech that says freedom is about more than just elections and majority rule, it is about important values that democratic societies need to follow to sustain that freedom. And so I think that's really kind of the thrust of what he'll talk about.
Q Have these remarks been adjusted --
MR. McCLELLAN: He'll also honor the sacrifices that were made in World War II, as well.
Q Have these remarks been adjusted in any way since the protest that was delivered to Secretary Rice?
MR. McCLELLAN: No. This trip has been -- we've been planning this trip for some time. The President felt it was important to go to Latvia and The Netherlands and Russia and Georgia. And when we go to Georgia, it's an opportunity for the President to highlight the success story of one of the world's newest democracies, and to praise them for the reforms that they are pursuing to continue on the path to democracy, as well.
And going back to the remarks in Latvia, I think that the President will talk about the importance of continuing to advance freedom and democracy in other parts of the world. The Middle East is an area that I think he will focus on in his remarks, as well, and the progress we're seeing there, and how we all must work together to support the advance of freedom throughout the world. The end of the Cold War marked the end of tyranny in a part of the world, but as you all recall, the President outlined the importance of working to end tyranny throughout the world, because when you have free and democratic societies, you have a more peaceful world. And free societies lead to hopeful societies that defeat the ideology of hatred that we have seen in parts of the world.
Q Do you know if Kim Jong-il is going to be there on Monday?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know. I haven't seen the latest list.
Q Wouldn't that be something? Was he invited? Do you know if he was invited?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think he may have been. But I'll have to double check. I just haven't seen the list. There are a lot of world leaders that are going to be attending.
Q He'll be there?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think I recall reading some news report that -- I thought I remembered seeing some news article earlier in the week that he wasn't going to be attending, but I just don't recall specifically --
Q I read something that said that he hadn't confirmed.
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't recall specifically. I remember one news story, I think earlier this week, where it said that he wasn't going to be attending.
Q He might be tied up with something else.
Q The tests, or something. (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: What else?
Q If the President is going to be ending tyranny, is he going to be staying up later on this trip? (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: Looking at the schedule -- it depends on what time zone you're in.
Q Week ahead.
MR. McCLELLAN: You've got Monday's schedule. On Wednesday, when we get back, there's nothing to announce on the public schedule.
On Thursday he's meeting with the Presidents of Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, which we previously announced. He'll meet with them in the Oval Office to talk about the Central American Free Trade Agreement that we are working to move through Congress.
And on Friday he's got remarks to the National Association of Realtors in Washington, and then remarks to the 2004 NCAA spring and fall sports champions at the State Floor at the White House.
Saturday nothing, and then Sunday he'll make remarks at the Annual Peace Officers' Memorial Service at the Capitol, in D.C. That's your week ahead. See you in a couple of hours.
Q What's he doing? Is he hanging out, watching movies?
MR. McCLELLAN: Last I saw, he just got back -- he was working in the cabin up front. We've only been a couple hours into the flight now. I went through what else he had done.
All right, thanks.
END 10:16 A.M. EDT