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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 17, 2005
Press Briefing by Scott McClellan
The James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:46 P.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon, everybody. The President this afternoon looks forward to participating in the swearing-in ceremony for his United States Trade Representative, Ambassador Portman. We are seeing strong and sustained economic growth. We've seen some 3.5 million jobs created since May of 2003. And one of the priorities that the President is focusing on today is the importance of expanding trade, and I expect that's what he will touch on in his remarks at the swearing-in ceremony. We need to do more to continue the kind of growth that we're seeing. Because of the pro-growth policies that we've already implemented, our economy is seeing strong and sustained growth. But the President believes one area where we can make a difference is on continuing to open markets abroad for American products and producers.
And today in his remarks, I expect the President is going to focus on three key priorities when it comes to trade. First of all, Congress needs to move forward and pass the free trade agreement with Central American countries and the Dominican Republic. Secondly, the President will talk about the importance of moving ahead with the Doha round. And, thirdly, the President will talk about making sure that as we move forward on trade, that there is a level playing field and that countries we enter into agreements with need to live up to the commitments they have made in those agreements. So the President looks forward to participating in that this afternoon, here shortly.
And with that, I will be glad to go to your questions.
Q Scott, the Senate has managed to function -- or not function, as the case may be -- for more than 200 years without a ban on judicial filibusters. Is the President concerned about the historic nature of what's being talked about up on the Hill?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, John, the Senate is working to move forward on their constitutional responsibility, which is to give nominees and up or down vote. One of the priorities for this President is to put people on the bench that are highly qualified and that have a conservative judicial philosophy -- people that show judicial restraint when it comes to the bench. And there are a number of vacancies that the Senate has not moved forward on.
You've had a minority of Senate Democrats blocking up or down votes for these nominees. All we're asking for is for these nominees to receive a simple up or down vote on the floor of the United States Senate. Unfortunately, there are some Senate Democrats that have played politics in taking this to an unprecedented level. We have not seen anything like this in our 214-year history in the Senate. So I would turn that around on you and look at it from the other perspective.
Q Well, let me ask two questions about what you just said. Where in the Constitution are judicial nominees guaranteed an up or down vote? And what about the impact of this whole so-called "nuclear option" on this idea of equal representation in the Senate?
MR. McCLELLAN: There are some judicial emergencies that we're talking about here, where people need to be put into these positions. There are vacancies now. And Senate Democrats have been blocking those nominees from receiving an up or down vote.
In terms of the Constitution, the role of the President is to appoint qualified individuals to the bench. The role of the Senate is to provide their advice and consent. It's not to provide advice and block. And what we have seen is that Senate Democrats are taking this to an unprecedented level, something we have not seen in those 214 years that you reference.
And so we would hope that they would move forward in giving all of these nominees an up or down vote, because all of them are well-qualified and would do an outstanding job.
Q What about this equal representation idea?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q What about the impact of this nuclear option on the equal representation idea?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I mean, the President -- the President has made it clear that when it comes to the White House, our view is that those are matters for the Senate to decide when it comes to Senate procedures. And so the Senate is discussing those issues. We simply want to see all our nominees get an up or down vote, and to see politics put aside by Senate Democrats so that these nominees can receive that up or down vote. But I think if you look at these nominees, they have the majority support of the United States Senate.
Q Let me just go back to the constitutional idea here. You said it again today, and you've said it many times in the past, that the Senate has a constitutional obligation to give these nominees an up or down vote. Can we agree that the constitutional requirement of the Senate is for advice and consent, but nowhere in the Constitution does it --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the Constitution --
Q -- but nowhere in the Constitution does it say that nominees are guaranteed an up or down vote.
MR. McCLELLAN: The Constitution said "advise and consent," and that's the role of the United States Senate, not "advise and block."
Q Scott, you said that the retraction by Newsweek magazine of its story is a good first step. What else does the President want this American magazine to do?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, it's what I talked about yesterday. This report, which Newsweek has now retracted and said was wrong, has had serious consequences. People did lose their lives. The image of the United States abroad has been damaged; there is lasting damage to our image because of this report. And we would encourage Newsweek to do all that they can to help repair the damage that has been done, particularly in the region.
And I think Newsweek can do that by talking about the way they got this wrong, and pointing out what the policies and practices of the United States military are when it comes to the handling of the Holy Koran. The military put in place policies and procedures to make sure that the Koran was handled -- or is handled with the utmost care and respect. And I think it would help to point that out, because some have taken this report -- those that are opposed to the United States -- some have taken this report and exploited it and used it to incite violence.
Q With respect, who made you the editor of Newsweek? Do you think it's appropriate for you, at that podium, speaking with the authority of the President of the United States, to tell an American magazine what they should print?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not telling them. I'm saying that we would encourage them to help --
Q You're pressuring them.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm saying that we would encourage them --
Q It's not pressure?
MR. McCLELLAN: Look, this report caused serious damage to the image of the United States abroad. And Newsweek has said that they got it wrong. I think Newsweek recognizes the responsibility they have. We appreciate the step that they took by retracting the story. Now we would encourage them to move forward and do all that they can to help repair the damage that has been done by this report. And that's all I'm saying. But, no, you're absolutely right, it's not my position to get into telling people what they can and cannot report.
Q Can I go back to judicial nominees just for a second?
MR. McCLELLAN: Sure.
Q Harry Reid says the goal of this practice is to pave the way for a Supreme Court nominee that would only need 50 votes to pass the Senate. I know you don't have any openings on the Supreme Court, but would you foresee using this practice in the future?
MR. McCLELLAN: I wouldn't speculate on a Supreme Court vacancy because there is not one at this point. And in terms of this matter, this is being discussed by the United States Senate now. They've been working to resolve this matter. Our view is that all nominees should have an up or down vote, and that's what we continue to emphasize.
Q To follow up on Terry's --
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me go to David, and then I'll come back to you.
Q On judicial nominees, two of the more controversial selections were at the White House today, I assume getting a kind of pick-me-up from the President, as well as Harriet Miers --
MR. McCLELLAN: They're here now.
Q And they're here now.
MR. McCLELLAN: The President strongly supports those nominees, absolutely.
Q Right, and he's made that clear. You made clear just a moment ago that he opposes judicial activists. And, yet, if you take a look, as I'm sure you have, at the records of Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown, both records reveal, according to conservatives -- not me, but according to some conservatives -- judicial activism, number one; and, number two, a judicial temperament which is, at times, very sharp, very acerbic in their opinions, and not consistent with what some people consider the kind of judicial temperament that would be appropriate for the kind of circuit court positions that they're being nominated to. Is there -- is the President sort of violating, in these nominees, his own principle for what he wants to see --
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me point out a couple of things about these two nominees you bring up. Both these nominees are individuals that are highly respected and have enjoyed strong support in their respective states. Judge Priscilla Owen has served on the bench of the Texas Supreme Court for some time now and has enjoyed strong support from the people of the state of Texas. Judge Brown is someone who was recently retained with 76 percent of the vote in California. They are --
Q This isn't a popularity contest, these are --
MR. McCLELLAN: They are both individuals who -- I'm pointing out the people who know them best and have seen their work. Both these judges are committed to judicial restraint. Both have a conservative judicial philosophy. They are exactly the kind of people that the President is looking to appoint to the bench, and that's why he nominated these two individuals.
And it's interesting that you and I are sitting here having this discussion today. All we're asking for is for the opportunity to debate these nominations on the floor of the United States Senate so that they can receive an up or down vote on their nomination.
Q Fair enough, but anyone who suggests that Janice Rogers Brown is a judicial activist, in your mind, is dead wrong?
MR. McCLELLAN: No. I think, David, when the President refers to activist judges, he is referring to judges that make law from the bench. And I think both these judges are committed to judicial restraint and to interpreting the law, not trying to make law from the bench.
Q I'd like to ask two questions that are, essentially, totally unrelated. One is, when you say that the President is going to encourage a level playing field among trading partners, are there particular issues or countries that that is aimed at?
And the other question has to do with the highway bill. Can you sort of give a sense of where the White House thinks that process is right now? And also, can you -- do you think you can sustain a veto if it comes to that?
MR. McCLELLAN: A couple of things on the highway bill. The Senate is taking that -- taking it up today. The President has clearly stated that we need to have legislation that meets our transportation needs but that also keeps us on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009. The President put forward a responsible budget and a responsible plan for meeting our transportation needs. We have made it very clear, and we reiterated here today, that the President's senior advisor would recommend a veto if that legislation exceeded the $283.9 billion that we have proposed. Now that's a 35 percent increase, more than 35 percent increase over previous funding for our transportation needs.
And what was the second?
Q Well, can you sustain a veto of the highway bill --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Congress is still working to address it. The House passed one that was within -- passed legislation that was within what the President outlined, and now the Senate is moving forward. And, obviously, they'll be working to resolve their differences and we'll see what comes to us. But our view is very clear that if it exceeds that limit, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto that legislation.
It's important that we meet our transportation needs, and we believe that we can meet our transportation needs by providing that 35 percent increase in this legislation. But it's also important, and the President is very serious about this, that we move forward on a fiscally responsible budget, a budget that keeps us on track to cut the deficit in half over the next five years. The President has made it clear that that's part of our efforts to keep the economy growing stronger, reducing the deficit. And that's why he said that we must spend the taxpayers' money wisely. And he put forward a budget that meets our priorities, but also holds the line on spending elsewhere in the budget.
Q On trading -- on trading, though, also, can you address -- are you directing these comments at particular countries, about leveling the playing field?
MR. McCLELLAN: He might point to a certain country later in his remarks.
Q On judges, Scott, you said that it's up to the legislature to make their own determination. But the Vice President has said that he's prepared to cast the deciding vote in favor of a 51-vote threshold, if necessary. Is the administration concerned that, ultimately, should that come to pass, they're going to be held responsible for a change in the precedent, because the Vice President cast that vote?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the Vice President made clear that it would be up to the Senate leadership to determine how to proceed. And as you are aware, the Vice President has a constitutional role as the President of the United States Senate. And he stated that he would be prepared to support that if the Senate leadership determined to proceed down that path.
And I think that the American people want to see the Senate give these nominees an up or down vote. That's the role of the United States Senate -- not to block nominees from receiving an up or down vote, but to move forward on giving them an up or down vote. And that's all we're asking, a simple up or down vote on the floor of the United States Senate. These senators -- I mean, these judges, these judicial nominees enjoy, I believe, a majority of support from the United States Senate.
Unfortunately, while there are judicial emergencies that are vacated, you have Senate Democrats playing politics with the bench. And they've taken it to an unprecedented level, one like we've never seen before. And that's the real issue here, is simply getting an up or down vote on the floor of the United States Senate.
Q Back on Newsweek. Richard Myers, last Thursday -- I'm going to read you a quote from him. He said, "It's a judgment of our commander in Afghanistan, General Eichenberry, that in fact the violence that we saw in Jalalabad was not necessarily the result of the allegations about disrespect for the Koran." He said it was "more tied up in the political process and reconciliation that President Karzai and his cabinet were conducting." And he said that that was from an after-action report he got that day.
So what has changed between last Thursday and today, five days later, to make you now think that those -- that that violence was a result of Newsweek?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, clearly, the report was used to incite violence by people who oppose the United States and want to mischaracterize the values and the views of the United States of America. The protests may have been pre-staged by those who oppose the United States and who may be opposed to moving forward on freedom and democracy in the region, but the images that we have seen across our television screens over the last few days clearly show that this report was used to incite violence. People lost their lives --
Q But may I just follow up, please? He didn't say "protest," he said -- he used the word very specifically, "violence." He said the violence, as far as they know from their people on the ground -- which is something that you always say you respect wholeheartedly -- it was not because of Newsweek.
MR. McCLELLAN: Dana, I guess I'm not looking at it the same way as you do, and I think the Department of Defense has spoken to this issue over the last few days. But the facts are very clear that this report was used in the region by people opposed to the United States to incite violence and to portray a very negative image of the United States, one that runs contrary to everything that we value and believe, and it has done some serious damage to our image.
Q You don't think there's any way that perhaps you're looking at it a little bit differently, now that you understand that the Newsweek report is false?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think you can go look at just about every news report that has covered this and they have pointed out that this report, itself, helped spark some violence in the region.
Q Scott, to go back to Dana's question, are you saying that General Myers was wrong, therefore, that this -- the violence he's talking about? Are you saying he was wrong in his assessment of what happened in Afghanistan?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, not at all. In fact, maybe you didn't hear me, but as I said, there are people that are opposed to the United States that look at every opportunity to try to do damage to our image in the region, and --
Q Okay --
MR. McCLELLAN: Hang on, let me finish -- and this report gave the additional material to incite violence, and additional material to exploit in the region. The report was wrong. Newsweek has stated that it was wrong. And there has been some lasting damage that has been done to our image because of this report. And it's going to take some work to repair that damage. And that's why we would encourage Newsweek to do its part to help repair the damage.
Q Let me follow up on that. What -- you said that -- what specifically are you asking Newsweek to do? I mean, to follow up on Terry's question, are you saying they should write a story? Are you going that far? How else can Newsweek, you know, satisfy you here?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, as I said, we would encourage them to continue working diligently to help repair the damage that has been done because of this --
Q Are you asking them to write a story?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- because of this report. I think Newsweek is going to be in the best position to determine how to achieve that. And there are ways that I pointed out that they can help repair the damage. One way is to point out what the policies and practices of our United States military are. Our United States military personnel go out of their way to make sure that the Holy Koran is treated with care --
Q Are you asking them to write a story about how great the American military is; is that what you're saying here?
MR. McCLELLAN: Elisabeth, let me finish my sentence. Our military --
Q You've already said what you're -- I know what -- how it ends.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm coming to your question, and you're not letting me have a chance to respond. But our military goes out of their way to handle the Koran with care and respect. There are policies and practices that are in place. This report was wrong. Newsweek, itself, stated that it was wrong. And so now I think it's incumbent and -- incumbent upon Newsweek to do their part to help repair the damage. And they can do that through ways that they see best, but one way that would be good would be to point out what the policies and practices are in that part of the world, because it's in that region where this report has been exploited and used to cause lasting damage to the image of the United States of America. It has had serious consequences. And so that's all I'm saying, is that we would encourage them to take steps to help repair the damage. And I think that they recognize the importance of doing that. That's all I'm saying.
Q As far as the Newsweek article is concerned, first, how and where the story came from? And do you think somebody can investigate if it really happened at the base, and who told Newsweek? Because somebody wrote a story.
MR. McCLELLAN: I think Newsweek has talked about it. They took it --
Q And second thing is that it's not only Newsweek story. In the past, well-known people who can make and break a society, they make statements against other religions, like Mr. Pat Robertson against Hinduism in the past. How can we prepare for the future all these stories, it doesn't happen again in the future? Do you think the President can come out and make sure, because that's what the Muslims are calling on the President to come out --
MR. McCLELLAN: We have to continue speaking out about the values that the United States stands for. And one value that we stand very strongly for is religious freedom. We believe all people should be able to practice their religion as they see fit. And we welcome a diversity of views. We welcome all those who -- well, I mean, we believe that religious freedom is at the heart of this issue here. And some people have taken this report and mischaracterized what we stand for here in America. So we're going to continue reaching out to people in the Muslim world and talking about what we believe in and what we stand for, and the values that we hold so dearly.
And in terms of what we're doing already, we're also asking our friends in the region to help make sure that that message gets out there, the message of what we believe in and what we stand for here in the United States, and the policies and practices that our military follows. Our military goes to great length to show the utmost respect for the Holy Koran and for the ability of detainees to worship freely. And I think that's something we will continue to point out.
In terms of the first question, I think that Newsweek talked about it yesterday; they talked about what went wrong, they talked about how this was based on a single, anonymous source, and they retracted the story, said it was wrong, and they shouldn't have gone with the story in the first place.
Q Just to follow quickly --
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me keep going. Terry, go ahead.
Q Scott, is this whole conversation about Newsweek and the White House, is this going on just in the media, or are White House officials talking to editors at Newsweek about what they think should be done?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm not aware of any such conversations, other than what I've said publicly. I know Newsweek did reach out to the Department of Defense to talk about the story, when they realized that they may have gotten it wrong. And they've since taken some steps, and we appreciate the step that they took yesterday.
Q But you are not being any more specific with editors of Newsweek about what you think -- I mean, in a sort of one-to-one way, about --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, look, I mean, Newsweek is going to have to make those determinations. All we're saying is that we would encourage them to help undo the damage that has been done. Some of it's not going to be able to be undone, some of it is lasting. But we would just simply encourage Newsweek to do what they can to help repair the damage that was done in the region. And Newsweek certainly has the ability to do that. They are a widely-published magazine.
Q Scott, just real quickly --
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, April.
Q Scott, on the issue of lasting damage in the Muslim world, you keep talking about that, but is there concern that the damage could trickle from the Muslim world back here to the United States? Like 9/11 was considered a jihad over religious beliefs, do you think -- is that some of the lasting and irreparable damage that this White House is talking about that could happen?
MR. McCLELLAN: I didn't quite look at it in those terms, April. I just haven't looked at it. I mean, this report -- this was about a report that was wrong and that Newsweek has since retracted. It has caused damage to us. What we've got to do is continue to reach out through public diplomacy efforts to the Muslim world and talk about our policies and talk about our values. And that's what we're going to continue to do, because I think that all people across the world want to live in freedom, and that is one of the values that is at the forefront of our foreign policy.
Q On the next question -- Nelson Mandela's visit with President Bush -- the White House is saying that it's pushing the idea of absolving the African nations of debt. Nelson Mandela wants to cancel the debt, but the concern is, is that the United States is not living up to its commitment of authorizing $15 billion over five years for this fund to fund malaria, AIDS and TB -- TB research, prevention and things of that nature. It's a contradiction there. Is the White House --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, I don't know where that's coming from, April, because we have moved forward on the President's Emergency Relief Plan for HIV and AIDS. That is one of the President's top foreign policy priorities. We made an unprecedented commitment to combat the AIDS pandemic, and we are moving forward on that commitment. We have funded that program to keep us on track to meet that $15 billion commitment, so I don't know where that's coming from.
Q So you're on track, you're on target for --
MR. McCLELLAN: Absolutely. And it has been budgeted to make sure that we fulfill that commitment. This is a high priority for the President.
Q Judicial filibusters, Scott. The President has said repeatedly he needs bipartisan cooperation on Social Security, other second term priorities, energy. Does he not worry that by bringing the filibuster issue to a head, he may well sacrifice key elements of his second term?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I don't think that's the way to look at it, Mark. I think the concern here -- the concern here is that you have leaders on the democratic side in the Senate who are intent on simply blocking important priorities, blocking judicial nominees, blocking our efforts to move forward on a comprehensive energy plan.
The President, tonight, is going to be talking about how the Republican Party is the party of ideas. The President is talking about what he's for, and talking about how we can work together and move forward on the shared priorities facing this nation. There are some Senate Democrats who simply to be -- seem to be more intent on simply saying, "no," and blocking things from happening. The American people want us to get things done. They want us to move forward on the judicial nominees, and make sure that they have up or down votes. That's all that we're asking for here.
Q So if that's the case, does that mean --
MR. McCLELLAN: It's not -- I look at it differently. It's about up or down votes on the floor of the United States Senate. And why shouldn't the -- as I was saying to David here earlier, why shouldn't these judges be able to have their nominations debated on the floor of the United States Senate? That's all we're asking.
Q I understand what you're saying, and I heard it. What it sounds to me like you're saying is that the Democrats are going to block us anyhow, so what do we have to lose? Does that means he's given up on bipartisan cooperation?
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me back up, because, again, you're trying to insert us into this, in terms of the Senate procedures. Those are Senate procedures. The President has made it clear that that's up to the Senate to decide -- that's his view. It's up to the Senate to decide their procedures. In terms of the nominees, our view is that all nominees should have an up or down vote.
Q Are you telling me that if the President called Bill Frist and said, look, the rest of my agenda is at risk here, let's not push this now. He would do that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Mark, we've always stayed out of Senate procedural or congressional procedural matters.
Q And this doesn't mean he's given up on bipartisan cooperation, he still expects bipartisan cooperation?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Mark, the President has worked to elevate the discourse in this town. The President has reached out to try to find common ground and get things done. The President has put forward ideas. The President has put forward solutions to our most pressing priorities. It's time for Senate Democrats to start coming to the table with some ideas instead of simply saying, no, and blocking progress.
Q You were talking before about the importance of keeping the transportation spending in line with the President's stated goals. Other than talking about how the senior advisors would recommend a veto threat, what else, specifically, is the White House doing to work with Congress to make sure everything stays in line? Are there meetings, is Josh Bolten up there talking --
MR. McCLELLAN: Are you talking on highway, or you talking on the budget?
Q I'm sorry, no, the budget -- and highway, although highway --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we worked with Congress as they were moving forward on adopting a budget resolution. And the budget resolution that Congress adopted is one that is consistent with the budget outline that the President put forward -- it meets our priorities and it keeps us on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009.
Q What about the other part to the --
MR. McCLELLAN: And now Congress is moving forward on the appropriations process, so we're working -- we're in very close contact with the administration, both agencies, as well as our legislative affairs team and budget office. We're in very close contact with members as they move forward on the appropriations process.
Q Scott, presuming that the President was pleased to hear that President Fox of Mexico expressed his regret at saying that Mexicans in the United States do the work that even blacks won't, my first question, doesn't the President believe this apology should have gone to an elected black leader, like Senator Obama, rather than to Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, the unelected?
MR. McCLELLAN: Les, I think that President Fox made a public statement regretting his comments. And I think he's addressed the matter.
Q The Jerusalem Post reports that PA Chairman Abbas invited leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad to relocate from Damascus to Gaza after the Israelis leave. And they also report that leaders of the Abbas co-founded Fatah organization sent birthday greetings to Saddam Hussein, wishing him, "Long life to free the Arab nation." What is the President's reaction to these actions?
MR. McCLELLAN: Whose comments? I'm sorry.
Q This was the greeting that Fatah sent to Saddam Hussein, wishing him, "Long life to free the Arab nation." What does the President think about this?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the President has made his views very clear, Les. And I don't -- I just haven't seen what you're bringing up.
Q Well, it's been reported, Scott. I mean, what does the President think of this?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think you know what the President's views are.
Q Scott, it's been a week since we had this evacuation here from the airplane intrusion. What's the status of the review here? Specifically, what have you found out in terms of why the internal evacuation system did not --
MR. McCLELLAN: Look, Peter, it's just a standard review. Any time you have an incident like this, we're going to review the procedures, and so forth.
Q Right. What has been determined?
MR. McCLELLAN: And in terms of -- as I said last week, the procedures that were in place were followed when it came to addressing the area of the threat. In terms of here at the White House, I've asked for some of the concerns that were expressed by you and your colleagues, and those concerns have been forwarded to me so that I can discuss them with the appropriate officials here at the White House to make sure that those issues are addressed in the future, as well.
Q Just to be specific, Scott, who's responsible for activating the internal system here, what was described to us as the Emergency Notification System? Is that the Secret Service or is that --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, it's the administration.
Q So what happened --
MR. McCLELLAN: It's the Office of Administration.
Q So has it been determined why the Office of Administration didn't turn it on --
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't have any further update for you, Peter, but it's something that I've asked them to look into, as well. But that's why I point out that you had a lot of people here at the White House that were working -- Secret Service personnel, both the Uniformed Division, and others -- who were working to make sure that people in this building were protected.
Q Has there been any more thought about the level of reaction to that threat, or non-threat, as it was seen by federal agencies?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, the level of reaction?
Q Yes. You know, evacuating this building, evacuating the Capitol, Treasury Department, and all the time, NORAD, the FAA had never believed that this was really an imminent threat. Nobody thought that there was any terrorist intent --
Q John, we live in a post-9/11 world, and we're going to take the appropriate steps to protect people when they're in an area of a threat. And that's exactly what was done in this instance. And I think that people appreciate the steps that were taken.
Q But it wasn't seen as being a high threat, though.
MR. McCLELLAN: I think we went through this last week.
Q In context of the Newsweek situation, I think we hear the caution you're giving us about reporting things based on a single anonymous source. What, then, are we supposed to do with information that this White House gives us under the conditions that it comes from a single anonymous source?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not sure what exactly you're referring to.
Q Frequent briefings by senior administration officials in which the ground rules are we can only identify them as a single anonymous source.
MR. McCLELLAN: Ken, I know that there is an issue when it comes to the media in terms of the use of anonymous sources, but the issue is not related to background briefings. But I do believe that we should work to move away from those kind of background briefings. I've been working with the bureau chiefs on that very issue. And I think we have taken some steps, and I think you have noticed that.
But there is a credibility problem in the media regarding the use of anonymous sources, but it's because of fabricated stories, and it's because of situations like this one over the weekend. It's not because of the background briefings that you may be referring to.
Q What prevents this administration from just saying from this point forward, you will identify who it is that's talking to us?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, in terms of background briefings, if that's what you're asking about, which I assume it is, let me point out that what I'm talking about there are officials who are helping to provide context to on-the-record comments made by people like the President or the Secretary of State or others. I don't think that that is the issue here when it comes to the use or widespread use of anonymous sources by the media. I think it's --
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me finish -- I think it's a much larger issue. And as I said, one of the concerns is that some media organizations have used anonymous sources that are hiding behind that anonymity in order to generate negative attacks.
Q But to our readers, viewers and listeners, I think it's all the same.
MR. McCLELLAN: And then you have a situation -- you have a situation where we found out later that quotes were attributed to people that they didn't make. Or you have a situation where you now learn that a single source was used for verifying this allegation -- and that source, himself, said he could not personally verify the accuracy of the report. And I think that that's -- you know, that's one of the issue that concerns the American people when they look at the media, and I think sometimes the media does have difficulty going back and kind of critiquing itself. And sometimes it's convenient for the media to point to others or to point to something other than internally. I think it's an issue that they need to work to address internally, and we'll work to address from our standpoint, as well. And those bureau chiefs that I met with have indicated that it is a problem that they're working to address internally, as well.
So I think we need to talk about the larger issue here when we talk about it.
Q With all due respect, though, it sounds like you're saying your single anonymous sources are okay and everyone else's aren't.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm not saying that at all. In fact, I think you may have missed what I said. I think that we should move away from the use of -- the long-used practice of the background briefings, and we've taken steps to do that. But I was putting in context what these background briefings that you're referring to are about. They're about individuals providing context to remarks or policies that may have been implemented by the administration, and you have other officials on the record talking about --
Q Sometimes you do --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- hang on -- talking about those policies. You also have incidents, or instances, where individuals are providing context to meetings with world leaders, and there's some diplomatic sensitivities involved there.
Q We also have incidents, like most recently with the energy speech, where it was before the President made his comments, it was all we had -- and we had to make the decision of whether to report this from anonymous sources who, frankly, in that case, we didn't even know who they were.
MR. McCLELLAN: This is one of the issues that I sat down and discussed with the bureau chiefs. I think it's best to kind of have those discussions with the bureau chiefs; I did. We've made some progress. I think they had a legitimate issue that they brought up. But there's a larger issue here. Let's not point to the background briefings as the problem with the credibility in the media about using anonymous sources, because it's a much larger issue than that, Ken. And I think you recognize that.
In terms of that one, I mean, that was simply done because the President was making the announcement the next day. But, anyway, we've taken steps to address that matter.
Q In terms of Newsweek, I know you're saying that you made some recommendations of what you'd like to see Newsweek do. Has there been any discussion either out of the Pentagon or the State Department in sort of an equal time situation where they produce copy stating the U.S. policy on treating the Koran?
MR. McCLELLAN: None that I'm aware of. We're just simply saying we would encourage them to help undo the damage that can be undone, to take steps to help repair the damage that was done by this report. I think they recognize the responsibility they have in that regard, as well.
Q But in terms of any articles that would specifically be solely produced by Newsweek and have no input of --
MR. McCLELLAN: No. I guess you're making that suggestion here, but, no, we haven't had any discussion.
Q Scott, on the Vicente Fox statement, the State Department yesterday, through the Bush administration, was critical of the Fox statement. But I'm wondering how what Fox said, in substance, is different from what President Bush is proposing with his immigration policy?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'd have to go back and look at his specific remarks. I'm not sure that I've looked at his entire context of his remarks. But we did address it yesterday. That's why I said it's been addressed, and President Fox has addressed it, as well, and expressed his regret about that particular remark.
Q Does the President believe that the Mexicans or other immigrants would come here and take what some people are describing as undesirable jobs? Is that what the President --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, what the President has talked about is that we should have a more rational and common-sense immigration policy. That's what he's put forward. We need to match willing workers with willing employers. You do have jobs that are filled by people coming to the United States when Americans are not filling those jobs. He's talked about that at length. And so he wants to have a policy that reflects an economic need that shows a more compassionate approach, as well, and one that will allow us to focus more resources on border security instead of on people who are coming to the United States simply because they need to provide for their families back in their country of origin, because they're looking for a better -- they're looking for a better wage than they can get in their own company -- own country.
Thank you all.
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